Butler Wins Horizon League Championship In Shootout

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Goalkeeper Fabian Knopfler came up with three stops in a penalty kick shootout and lifted #6 Butler to the title of the 2010 Horizon League Men’s Soccer Championship at the Butler Bowl on Sunday, Nov. 14.  The outcome gives Butler an automatic berth in the 2010 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship.

This year’s championship match between the top-seeded Bulldogs (16-0-3) and second-seeded Green Bay (13-4-2) followed nearly the same script as last year’s Horizon League title match between the same two teams.  The two teams tied, 0-0, a year ago and Green Bay claimed the title in a shootout.  

This year’s match was tied at the end of regulation, 1-1, and remained tied through two overtime periods, setting up the shootout.

Green Bay’s David Prochazka was successful on the first penalty kick, and he was matched by Butler’s Ben Sippola, the Horizon League’s Player of the Year.  Tony Walls converted the second kick for Green Bay, and Butler freshman Austin Oldham kept pace.

That’s when Knopfler came up with the first stop.  Green Bay scoring leader JC Banks shot low to the right side and Knopfler dove and deflected the ball off the post.  But Green Bay goalkeeper Ryan Wehking came up with a stop on Butler’s Jacob Capito to keep the match even.

Knopfler came through for a second time, deflecting a shot by Green Bay’s David Bernhardsson, and sophomore Julian Cardona gave Butler the advantage with a successful kick.

Scott Raymonds took the final Green Bay kick, and Knopfler again made a diving stop to seal the championship.

“When we stepped into the goal for the PK’s, the only thing I was thinking about was the 15th of November last year, and how upset we were that we lost on our home field,” said Knopfler.  “I was lucky to save three PK’s, but it wasn’t just me.  We have to honor the guys who stepped up and took the PK’s.”

For more than 88 minutes it appeared that Butler was going claim the title and keep its record unblemished in regulation play.  Oldahm gave Butler a 1-0 lead at 35:57 on a shot from 15 yards out that eluded Wehking.  Senior Kyle Pateros served a cross to the center of the field to set up Oldham’s fifth goal of the season.

But Bernhardsson came through with a clutch goal at 88:06 to tie the match, and ultimately send the contest into overtime.  His goal came on a shot from eight yards out off a centering pass from Banks.

The Bulldogs had two excellent opportunities in the two overtime periods, but Wehking stopped both.

Butler finished with a 16-13 edge in shots in the match, and both teams had five shots on goal.  The rugged contest also featured 42 fouls and seven yellow cards.  Knopfler and Wehking each had four saves in the contest.  

Sippola was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, and he was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Knopfler, Oldham, Cardona and junior Matt Hedges.  Others named to the team were Banks, Prochazka and Walls of Green Bay, Brad Stuver and Audric Kilroy of Cleveland State and Willie Koss and Will Martin of Loyola.

The tournament title was Butler first since 2001 and fifth overall.

“I couldn’t be more excited for the seniors, who have worked so hard,” said Butler head coach Kelly Findley after the match.  “The pressure of the penalty kicks shootout is huge, and obviously we lost it last year.  To win it, and especially for Fabian to save three of them was fantastic.”

Butler, one of just two unbeaten teams in Division I, will be returning to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year  The Bulldogs will find out when and where they’ll play during the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, Nov. 15.