Photo by: Roxie Gonzalez
Coming into the season, the Oklahoma Christian University men’s soccer team had hopes of a more successful campaign than last year’s injury-plagued team.
Sophomore mid-fielder Seth Brown said the team is optimistic for the season.
“Last year we had lots of injuries, so that was pretty rough on our season,” Brown said. “This year we’re finally fairly free of injuries, so that’s really good to be able to come into the season with lots of people [who] can challenge the starters to play. I just think that the added level of competition within the team is definitely an improvement.”
The Eagles came into the season opener with an edge in the scouting reports to defeat long-time rival, Southern Nazarene University. Brown, who did not play due to ankle injury, expected a strong showing from Oklahoma Christian.
“OC and Southern Nazarene have been long time rivals, so it’s always a good rivalry game,” Brown said before Saturday’s game. “Even if we do have the better side, it comes down to who shows up. We’ve had a good preseason and I think we’re ready to show up and play.”
The men’s soccer team couldn’t close SNU out. Oklahoma Christian found itself in an early 2-0 deficit, but was able to claw its way back into the game, forcing overtime where the Eagles outshot SNU 25-15. The Crimson Storm quickly fought back in overtime to a 3-2 victory.
“In overtime it was just really fatigued legs, but it’s just those minor mistakes that the team makes,” Oklahoma Christian mid-fielder, Taylor Vanderford, said.
The Eagles got off to a slow start that cost them two early goals. The first goal came in the sixth minute with Edgar Pineda assisted by Ismael Fernandez scoring one-on-one against Oklahoma Christian goalkeeper Evan Helker. Pineda scored the second goal for SNU in the 18th minute, unassisted.
“It’s how we were in the scrimmages, we start out really slow at first,” Oklahoma Christian forward, Brandon Little-Axe said. “We let the other team dictate the way the game is at the beginning, then we start playing up to them after the first 10 to 15 minutes, which is not good.”
Oklahoma Christian scored its first goal in the 32nd minute with an assist from Troy Tippeconnic to Ante Susic, who got his shot by SNU goalkeeper Jeff Ray.
The second half was almost completely controlled by the Eagles, who finally closed the gap in the 69th minute off of a free kick from 20 yards by Tippeconnic—whose only goal last season was a free kick against SNU—just outside the penalty box.
“The goals early on were two minor mistakes that we made, but overall we should look forward to this game as a positive note because we kept the ball 75 percent of the game,” Vanderford said.
In a brief overtime, SNU aggressively moved the ball to end the game quickly. Edgar Pineda assisted Blake Rodgers, who scored past Helker for the win.
Helker had two saves in the game while Southern Nazarene’s Jeff Ray had nine. Troy Tippeconnic finished with six shots, one goal and one assist. Edgar Pineda was the standout player for Southern Nazarene with six shots, two goals and one assist.
Two yellow cards were issued in the first period – the first to SNU’s Edgar Pineda in the 21st minute and the second to SNU’s Alan Armstrong in the 28th minute.
“We went down 2-0, but we came back and fought and kept fighting to tie it up,” Little-Axe said. “That’s important mentally to know we can rally.”
According to players, attending fans were boosted team morale.
“After our first goal we had the fans on our side,” Vanderford said. “The fans really got us going a lot with the excitement and hearing it from them. When we got our second goal that really pushed everybody to go harder.”
The Eagles remain optimistic about the rest of the season, and said they are reviewing this game as a learning experience that will help them throughout the season.
“Looking at how we played versus scrimmages to how we played against SNU, I think we’ve come a long way,” Vanderford said. “And it’s just the beginning of the season.”
The Oklahoma Christian Eagles will start a three game homestretch over the next two weeks, this Friday at 7 p.m. against Ouachita Baptist University.