Butler Advances To Horizon League Championship Match

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- It came down to the Horizon League’s best offensive player against the league’s top goalkeeper and the outcome lifted top-seeded Butler to a 2-1 victory over #4 Cleveland State in the second semifinal of the league tournament at the Butler Bowl on Friday, Nov. 12.  The win moves the Bulldogs into a title game rematch with second-seeded Green Bay on Sunday, Nov. 14.

With 0:43 left in the match, Butler’s Jacob Capito was tripped in the penalty box, setting up a penalty kick for the Bulldogs.  Senior Ben Sippola, named Horizon League Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, lineup up against Cleveland State’s Brad Stuver, tabbed the league Goalkeeper of the Year.  Sippola capped Butler’s comeback by blasting a shot to the upper left corner of net, his eighth goal this year.

“I’m pleased for Jake, being a senior.  He got himself in the right spot and drew the penalty.  And then Ben stepped up.  The guy has great character.  The pressure at that moment is unbelievable and to be able to smash that thing in the back of the net was great for our team and great for him,” said Butler head coach Kelly Findley after the match.

The Bulldogs (16-0-2), ranked sixth in the National Soccer Coaches of America Association national poll, were playing catch-up for more than 50 minutes of the tough, physical match.  Cleveland State (8-10-1) grabbed a lead just over 20 minutes into the contest when Audric Kilroy took a long pass up-field from Manual Conde and fired a shot past Butler goalkeeper Fabian Knopfler.

It was the first time this season that the Bulldogs trailed in a match!

The Vikings, who tied Butler, 0-0, just a week ago at the Butler Bowl, took the 1-0 advantage to halftime and held it through the first 30:33 of the final period.  That’s when Butler came up with perhaps its biggest play this season.

Senior Brett Heinz started a charge up the right side of the field and served to the middle of the field.  Freshman Austin Oldham knocked the ball down to teammate Julian Cardona, and the sophomore forward launched a shot from 25 yards out that eluded a diving Stuver and settled into the left corner of the net.  It was Cardona’s fourth goal this season.

“Julian is a quality, quality player.  I’m not surprised that a player of his quality had that big moment for us today,” noted Findley.

Butler had a 17-8 advantage in shots in the match and a 9-6 edge in shots on goal.  Sippola led the attack with six total shots and five shots on goal.  Stuver finished with seven saves, while Knopfler had five.  There were nine yellow cards issued in the contest, five on Cleveland State and four on Butler.

The Bulldogs played without their second-leading scorer, freshman forward Adekunle Oluyedun, who suffered a mile concussion in Butler’s regular season match against Cleveland State.  His status for Sunday’s championship match will be determined over the weekend.

Butler will be facing Green Bay in the league title match for the second consecutive year.   The Phoenix (13-4-1) advanced to the championship match with a 1-0 victory over Loyola in the first semifinal match on Friday.  The two teams battled to a 0-0 tie a year ago at the Butler Bowl, and Green Bay earned the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament on penalty kicks.  The league title match will start at 1 p.m. (ET).