Judah Newby | Sports Editor
Calvin Wetzel | Assistant Sports Editor
Between two last-minute victories for the women and two dynamic displays of offense from the men, the 2012 Bob Baptista Invitational was another success for both Wheaton soccer programs.
For Head Coach Pete Felske and the women’s team, the victorious weekend could just have easily turned sour thanks to the gritty play of the Thunder’s two opponents, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College (Calif.) and Principia College (Ill.). Wheaton actually trailed for the majority of both contests before scoring equalizing goals in the final 15 minutes and the winning goals in the waning minutes.
Friday’s matchup pitted Wheaton against the Athenas of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College, and it was the visitors who cracked the scoreboard first. In the 20th minute, CMS senior forward Madi Shove was able to take a pass and split the Thunder defense and push a shot past senior goalkeeper Hilary Barreto for the game’s initial lead. Wheaton sought to respond with numerous attempts to slide passes behind the high line of defense to their forwards but were unable to put consistent attacks together without being called for an offside violation. Wheaton created multiple chances to break into the scoring with three corner kicks and five total shots at the net in the final five minutes of the half, but nothing made it past the keeper. The game went into halftime with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in front 1-0.
The Athenas’ defense held strong through the second half as well, and the contest entered the final 20 minutes with the same score. The one goal could have been larger without the efforts of Barreto, who made saves on two separate occasions against shots from Shove and kept the Thunder in a manageable position.
Then, in minute 78, senior defender Shelby Anthony looked to loop a ball from the near sideline to the far post with hopes of giving a Thunder teammate a chance at the net. The trajectory of the ball was perfect, though not for a pass, as it carried toward the far post, just evaded the leaping attempt of the keeper, and tucked itself into the side netting for the equalizing goal. Anthony struck it from 25 yards out to put it home, and the momentum swung back to the home team.
With a tie game and just a few minutes left on the clock, it looked as though the Thunder would be forced to overtime in their first contest. But with just over a minute left, they mounted a final attack. Senior midfielder Keri Shannon crossed a ball into the box, where it was fought for and won by senior forward Val Lelle. Lelle made a strike at the net and CMS junior keeper Hannah Dunham got in front, blocking it to the turf. But junior forward Leah DeMoss was ready for the ricochet, as she cut into the box to collect the loose ball before burying it into the net for the ultimate winner.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps was unable to muster anything in the final seconds, and the No. 4 Thunder escaped from the season’s opening match with a 2-1 victory.
“I would have liked to see us play better,” Coach Felske said postgame. “We’ve had some ups and downs in the preseason; we’re trying to incorporate 13 new players into a roster of 27 total, but we’re going to continue to get better from this point.”
The very next night proved to be a near replica of Friday night’s drama. After sustaining another early 1-0 deficit against Principia, the Thunder rallied late with a header goal from sophomore forward Anna Seabolt on a cross from Lelle to tie the match in the 76th minute. This time Wheaton was unable to win it in regulation as the game entered a 10-minute overtime period.
After a scoreless first overtime that featured a couple solid chances at the net for the Thunder, Wheaton once again found the winner in the second overtime with just two minutes left. A corner kick by sophomore forward Annie Hamilton was possessed by sophomore midfielder Alexa Sharkey, who followed with a shot that was blocked, but senior All-American Laura Karsten finished it with a right-footed punch past the keeper for the game-winner.
All in all, the Thunder women began their quest of returning to the postseason in dramatic fashion with the two late wins. The non-conference schedule continued on Tuesday with a road trip up to Calvin College (Mich.) where Wheaton defeated the Knights 3-2. Keri Shannon scored in the first half, and Lelle and Hamilton scored in the second half to pace the Thunder to their third win of the season in as many tries.
The Thunder men’s soccer team also opened up their 2012 season in style over the weekend as part of the annual Bob Baptista Invitational. They took on Kalamazoo College (Mich.) on Friday night and then Principia College the following night.
Wheaton took control early in Friday night’s contest and did not look back. They were unsuccessful in four straight corner kick attempts, but in the 15th minute junior forward Chad Musgraves’ header found the back of the net. Assisting Musgraves on the play was junior defender Matt Hussey. The Thunder controlled the possession for much of the remainder for the first half. The score remained 1-0 until nine minutes remained in the half when Kalamazoo senior Dane Macdonell managed to deflect the shot off of the foot of Thunder freshman forward Marshall Hollingsworth, but junior midfielder Nathan Jasperse was there for the rebound and put it in to give his squad a two goal lead. The score remained 2-0 through halftime.
The second half was much of the same, as Wheaton outshot the Hornets 12-5 in the first half and 11-5 in the second. In the 72nd minute, Musgraves fed senior midfielder Jason Bhatta, who took the ball at the top of the box, spun around his man, and nailed a shot to make it a three goal lead. That is where the score remained as the Thunder sealed a 3-0 victory.
Wheaton had eight shots on goal to Kalamazoo’s one on the night. Thunder senior keeper Ryan Seager pitched a shutout, finishing the match with one save.
On Saturday night, Wheaton faced the Principia Panthers. The offense was firing on all cylinders on this night, with junior midfielder Josh Clark leading the attack with a hat trick for the Thunder.
“It’s been a while,” Clark said of his stat-stuffing effort. “Especially with the long-awaited season last year to get back on the pitch after the concussion, but it’s just good to be back with the team and back on the field and I’ll take all the goals I can get.”
His first goal came six minutes into the contest, when the Panthers were whistled for a foul outside of the box, which set up a free kick to be taken by Clark. He snuck the ball inside the near post, giving Wheaton a 1-0 lead. Clark’s second goal came in the 16th minute off of a corner kick by sophomore forward Noah Anthony. Anthony’s ball was perfectly placed for Clark to head it into the goal.
Just before halftime Principia was able to cut the lead to one with a score of their own. Sophomore midfielder Leif Carlson rifled home a shot from well outside the box to give the Panthers some momentum heading into the break. At the beginning of the second half, they struck again to tie the score when sophomore midfielder Nate Waters hit a shot just past the outstretched arms of junior goalie Derek Babb.
Wheaton retook the advantage 10 minutes into the second half when freshman midfielder Elliot Borge fired a shot from the edge of the box that was stopped by Panthers sophomore goalkeeper Matt Jones, but Musgraves was in the right place at the right time and put in his second goal of the year. That gave the Thunder the lead for good, but, just to be safe, Clark capped off his hat trick in the 69th minute with a goal that somehow slipped through Jones’ hands. Anthony and Musgraves got credit for the double-assist on the goal.
The Thunder outshot the Panthers 24-10 and had 11 shots on goal to Principia’s four. Coach Mike Giuliano’s Thunder squad will head to Spokane, Wash. this weekend as part of their yearly cross-country flight. Wheaton will play on the campus of Whitworth University, taking on nationally-ranked Pacific Lutheran University on Friday before matching up against the host Whitworth Pirates on Saturday.
The long road trips away from home have not been kind to the Thunder in recent years, as the team went 2-4 in out-of-state contests last season that included trips to California, Michigan and Ohio. But this year’s team is looking forward to changing that past history and turn it into momentum toward the conference schedule.
“We’ve been 2-0 the past two seasons, but it really doesn’t mean anything if we don’t keep working hard,” Musgraves said. “We can start 2-0 and still not make the tournament. There’s still a long, long way to go. We can’t get ahead of ourselves, and I think we have a lot of players on the team who understand that and who will continue to work hard every single game.”
Clark agreed. “We’ve got some swagger; that’s what we keep saying. So we got a little swagger going into this trip and confidence, and we’re just looking to get some wins and keep moving and taking it game by game, half by half,” he said.
Wheaton returns to Illinois next week and take on University of Chicago on the road before coming back home to face Calvin College on Sept. 14.
Photos and Banner credit: Allison Freet
Printed in the September 7, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to email@example.com.