Assistant Sports Editor
The Wheaton men’s soccer team is heading to the CCIW conference championship game.
On Friday, Oct. 26, they defeated Millikin University 3-0 in the regular season finale to win the CCIW regular season championship and earn the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, giving them the home field advantage for the tournament. On Wednesday, Oct. 31, the Thunder knocked off Illinois Wesleyan 5-0 in the first round of the tournament to advance to the championship game Saturday, Nov. 3, at 7:00 p.m. against North Park University at Joe Bean Stadium.
The Thunder offense has continued to build momentum, as they have now scored three or more goals in seven straight games and have outscored their opponents 20-2 since Oct. 13. The defense has also stepped up as of late, allowing two goals in the past six games and posting three straight shutouts. Wheaton is now 8-0-0 at Joe Bean Stadium, their best home record in 15 years.
Friday, Oct. 26, was senior night as Thunder seniors Jason Lollar, Jason Bhatta, Ryan Seager, Dan Pavlak and Connor Rice were honored during the halftime ceremonies. Sophomore forward Adam Blackman put his team ahead in the 14th minute. He took a pass from sophomore defender Noah Anthony, and, after his shot deflected off of the right post, he collected his own rebound and put it in. Blackman scored again 12 minutes later as he beat his marker and beat Big Blue keeper Daniel Sinclair to the far post. It was Blackman’s second goal on the night, leading the team with 10 goals. The 2-0 score remained until the intermission.
Bhatta extended the advantage to 3-0 when he found the back of the net four minutes into the second half for his second goal of the season.
“It was great to score on senior night and give the team a celebration everyone wanted to see,” Bhatta said. “Being able to score in the first game of the season and last game of conference is a great senior year.”
The Thunder outshot Millikin 33-6 with 15 shots on frame to Millikin’s two. Sinclair allowed three goals while making 12 saves, and Seager made two saves and didn’t allow any goals in 72 minutes. Junior goalie Derek Babb manned the Thunder net for the final 18 minutes of the match.
“It was a great win for the team and for all the seniors being able to go out and win on senior night for the conference title,” said Bhatta on clinching the CCIW’s No. 1 seed.
On Wednesday night, Oct. 31, Wheaton hosted Illinois Wesleyan University in CCIW tournament action. The Thunder extended their winning streak to nine games with a 5-0 victory over the Titans. Junior forward Chad Musgraves led the way with a trio of scores for Wheaton’s second hat trick of the season. He put his team ahead 26 minutes into the match with a goal from the corner of the field at a difficult angle that got over the head of Titans keeper Andrew Reed and squeaked inside the far post.
The 1-0 score held until the 73rd minute when junior forward Mitch Paur blasted a shot off of the near post and freshman forward Stephen Golz was there to collect the rebound and put it in for a 2-0 lead. Musgraves got on the board again in the 75th minute when he took a pass from Blackman and was able to find the net. Seven minutes later, Musgraves completed the hat trick as he converted an assist from Golz. Bhatta finished off the scoring with his second goal in as many games, as he spun and curved a left footed shot into the net from 22 yards out.
Reed saved six and allowed five goals for Wesleyan, while Seager made three saves and recorded his fifth shutout of the year. After being outshot by the Titans 11 days prior, the Thunder returned the favor by taking 26 shots to Wesleyan’s nine. Wheaton also held an 11-3 advantage in shots on goal. Each squad took two corner kicks in the contest.
Wheaton will play for the CCIW tournament championship tonight, Nov. 2, at Joe Bean Stadium at 7 p.m. For the third straight year, the Thunder will square off against rival North Park. The Vikings have ended Wheaton’s season in the conference tournament each of the last two years, and Head Coach Mike Giuliano’s squad will try to avoid making it three in a row as they play for an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. After 17 straight trips to the national tournament, the men’s soccer program has missed out the past two years, and although they stand a good chance of getting an at-large bid, a win would eliminate all doubt and ensure a return trip to the tournament. The CCIW championship tonight will be broadcast live on WETN 88.1 FM and online at www.wetn.org.
Photo Credit: Allison Freet
Printed in the November 2, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to email@example.com.