Junior Ben Sippola nailed the game-winner midway through the
second half and senior Boris Gatzky added an
insurance goal 17 minutes later to lead Butler to a 3-1 men’s
soccer victory over Wright State at the Butler Bowl on Saturday
(Nov. 7). The victory clinched the Horizon League regular
season championship for the Bulldogs and made Butler the No. 1 seed
and host of the league tournament, Nov. 13 & 15.
The win didn’t without some anxious moments. Despite a 7-1 advantage in shots in the first half, the Bulldogs (13-2-1, 6-1-1 Horizon League) trailed 1-0 at halftime after Wright State’s Brad Bamberger found the net after taking a cross from teammate Tim Sampson.
“(Wright State) worked hard and made it tough. They got that score in the first half and put us in a hole,” said Butler head coach Kelly Findley. “But our guys responded and moved the ball well. I thought we really played well in the second half.”
Butler tied the match just over seven minutes into the second half when freshman Julian Cardona pushed a header past Wright State goalkeeper Corey Whisenhunt after gathering a rebound off the crossbar. Gatzky and freshman Tyler Pollock both picked up assists on the goal. It was Cardona’s sixth goal of the season.
Sippola then gave the Bulldogs the lead for good at 64:25. Junior Michael Clayton started the play with a pass to Cardona, who found Sippola in the middle of the field. Sippola turned and blasted a shot from 15 yards away directly into the back of the net. It was his first goal of the season!
Gatzky tallied Butler’s final goal at 81:26 on a shot from 25 yards out, after taking a pass from junior Matt Sall. It was Gatzky’s sixth goal of the season.
The Bulldogs held off Wright State (6-10-1, 2-5-1 HL) for the final eight and half minutes and then celebrated Butler’s first league regular season title since 2004.
“We’ve been building toward this,” noted Findley. “Our program is about competing for championships and it feels good to get this one. I’m really pleased for our seniors, who have put in a lot of work into building the attitude that’s helped realize this success.”
Butler finished with an 18-2 advantage in shots, including an 8-1 edge in shots on goal. Senior Fabian Knopfler went the distance in goal and picked up ninth win of the season.
The Bulldogs will host the semifinals of the Horizon League Championship, beginning on Friday, Nov. 13, at noon. The second semifinal is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. The league championship match will be played at Butler on Sunday, Nov. 15.