Baker soccer is national bound
Thanks to a stingy defense that allowed no goals in its final three games, Baker University's mens soccer team will make its first trip to the NAIA National Tournament this weekend. The Wildcats, 14-3-3, defeated Graceland College 5-0 on Saturday in the NAIA Region V championship in Baldwin City.
But, already, there's no satisfaction with what's happened.
"I'm very proud of what this team has accomplished, but we've also talked this week about not just being satisfied going. We need to go there to win," said coach Ron Pulvers.
"My senior year at Westmont (Calif.) College we were one of the top teams, but we didn't advance because we were just happy to be there. I don't want that to happen to this team."
Baker, seeded seventh in the 16-team national tournament field, will play 10th-seeded Simon Fraser College (13-4-0) of Canada in the first round on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Bowling Green, Ky. Baker's potential second-round opponent is Lindsey Wilson College, the second-seeded host school.
"There are some great teams at the tournament, but this team is very experienced," said Pulvers. "We played very well down the stretch and there's no reason why that can't continue into the tournament."
Baker did not allow a goal in its two regional games. Baker beat Heart of America conference rival Lindenwood 1-0 in the regional semifinal before beating Graceland. Senior goalkeeper Eric Taylor of Wichita recorded 8.5 shutouts in the 20-game season. Baker has allowed just three goals in the past nine games.
Pulvers sees that defense as continuing to be the strength in the push toward a national championship.
"In terms of defending against goals, our team is as good as anyone in the country and defending is what wins championships," he said. "I like this team's chances. We are a longshot, but you've got to have a dream to make a dream come true."
Baker's offense has scored 24 goals in those games, dating to Oct. 9. Baker's leading scorer is Barry Cummings, a junior forward from Glasgow, Scotland, with 11 goals.
In Saturday's 5-0 regional victory, Cummings scored two goals, with Matt Trumpp, Sean Hughes and Luke Parrott adding a goal apiece. Jason Belisle led the way with two assists. Also with assists were Jason Bessey, Mike Garven and Joe McArdle.