The Lakes were disappointed on Saturday in their bid to win a conference tournament game for the first time in program history, falling to the Grace Bible College Tigers by the score of 3-1.
The first twenty-five minutes were evenly played out, with both teams having multiple opportunities to score. Grace broke the deadlock in the 27th minute, winning a GLCC throw-in and quickly turning the ball up the pitch and finishing, making it 1-0. Ten minutes later, the Tigers would score again, winning an aerial challenge over goalkeeper Jeremy Smith and heading the ball in to give Grace a 2-0 advantage.
It would get worse before it got better. Grace scored another one on a corner in the 40th minute to put themselves decisively in front, 3-0, at the half time break.
Ten minutes in, the Lakes pulled one back when Jeremy Klepal’s corner bounced off a pair of Grace defenders, and into the goal to cut the margin to 3-1. Great Lakes began to apply somepressure and very nearly scored again. Klepal directed a header goalwards, only to see the keeper make the save, and Danny Buegar had a brilliant bulleted header that only just skipped over the bar. Despite these opportunities for the Crusaders, the own goal would be the only one they would score in the match, and the final whistle saw them fall short, 3-1, and be eliminated from the conference tournament.
Head coach Justin Braman addressed his team after the game. “I’m very proud of each and every one of you,” he said. He also stated that with the quality of players returning, that the team could do something special next season.
Although the end result was disappointing, Great Lakes soccer accomplished some things that it hadn’t accomplished before. For the first time, the program received a spot in the Top 10 poll from the NCCAA, back in early October. The team defeated Andrews for the first time in program history, and also defeated then #4 Ohio Christian, 1-0.
While the team were unsuccessful in their bid to win in the conference tournament, nor were they able to defeat their biggest rival in three tries, this season was a major step forward for a program that was nothing short of laughable in previous years.
Game Notes: Izzy Sesay was not present at the game on Saturday. Max Ganesch was sent off in the 78th minute for disrespecting an opponent. Peter Stebbins did not play due to injury, and Mike Vickers did not play due to illness. Marquis DeLong left the game in the first half after re-aggravating his hip injury.
Up Next: It’s basketball time! Wednesday night the Crusaders debut against Indiana University-Northwest, whom they defeated 94-72 last season.