After 14 years at the NCAA Division I level, this was the moment the Lipscomb men’s soccer program has been building toward.
Since its first season of NCAA post-season eligibility in 2004, no Bison team has ever done what the 2017 edition has achieved – an NCAA Tournament appearance.
After becoming the first sixth-seeded team in conference tournament history to take home the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship, the Bisons hoped to continue its magical postseason run on Nov. 19 as they headed 300-miles to take on the Butler Bulldogs the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at the Sellick Bowl in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Despite a handful of strong scoring chances, the Lipscomb men’s soccer team was unable to find the back of the net in a 2-0 loss to the 15th-ranked Butler.
“I thought the effort was great, but we didn’t start well and giving up the first goal changes things dramatically,” said Lipscomb head coach Charles Morrow. “Once the guys settled in, we got used to the turf and figured out how to break down their initial press, I thought the guys did really, really well. We had a lot of the game and created a lot of chances. I thought we were unfortunate not to score.”
That lead would hold for the Bulldogs until late in the contest when Guhl would strike again getting behind the Bisons defense. Butler’s Eric Dick notched his ninth shutout of the season with a four-save effort against Lipscomb.
The loss ends the season for the Bisons as the team bids farewell to seniors Eduardo Reza, Cameron Botes, Ivan Sakou, Ivan Alvarado, Scout Monteith, Jonathan Ramirez, Anthony Bellini, Brandon Bramuller and Kyle Smith.
“I’m really proud of the guys’ effort tonight and really proud of their approach and what they did this year," said Morrow.
THE ROAD TO THE NCAA
Lipscomb faced a tall task in order to get to the NCAA tournament.
In the nonconference season, the Bisons dominated by picking up three top-100 RPI victories and a draw. Two of the wins came against Top-35 teams on the road against San Diego and Kentucky. Overall the Bisons outscored non-ASUN opponents 22-20 and finished that portion of their schedule 7-3-1.
In the Conference tournament, Lipscomb faced No. 3 seed New Jersey Institute of Technology in the opening round and raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first half before the Highlanders fought back to level the score with less than four minutes to play in regulation. After 20 scoreless minutes of extra time, the Bisons had to endure their first shootout since 2008.
They went to 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman Luke Wilson in net, the first action of his collegiate career. After stopping two shots and forcing another high, Wilson and the Bisons advanced on PKs, 3-0.
In the semifinals at No. 2 Florida Gulf Coast, senior forward Ivan Sakou wasted little time in putting the visitors on the board when a harmless shot wiggled through the keeper’s legs and into the net. FGCU drew back even midway through the first half, but the Bison defense stood tall and Logan Paynter buried the game-winner in the 71st minute off Austin Eager’s service to send Lipscomb to its first-ever ASUN Title match.
On a rain-soaked turf at Southern Oaks Stadium, the sixth-seeded Bisons looked the better side from beginning to end, dominating ball possession throughout. Kyle Smith scored the game’s first goal in the 30th minute when he quickly knocked in a rebound in the box off a save. Just seven minutes after a score from the Dolphins, Lipscomb was awarded a penalty after a handball in the box was whistled. Eduardo Reza stepped up and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner underneath the diving keeper to clinch the title.
“It will take some time for these guys to sit back and reflect on what they’ve done,” said Morrow. “It’s not just this year but since their time began at Lipscomb and the impact they will have on future years. They’ve accomplished great things this year and left a legacy of excellence and commitment that is second to none. The fruits of their labor will be seen by classes and classes to come.”
Want to learn more about the men’s soccer team? Visit: www.lipscombsports.com/msoccer/.