Men’s soccer looks to remain unbeaten when it hosts Valparaiso Friday at 4 p.m.
Last weekend, the 14th-ranked Bulldogs (7-0, 2-0 HL) headed north to begin their Horizon League campaign with games against Green Bay on Friday and Milwaukee on Sept. 26.
“Rankings aren’t important now,” senior captain and midfielder Ben Sippola said. “You can be in the top 25 one minute and forgotten the next.
“If we’re ranked in the top 10 at the end of the season, we’ll be happy.”
Friday’s match against Green Bay (4-3-1, 0-1 HL), the league-opener for both teams, was a rematch of last year’s Horizon League Tournament Championship game in which the Phoenix won on penalty kicks, sending them to the NCAA Tournament.
Tallying his third goal of the season, freshman midfielder Adekunle Oluyedun put the Bulldogs on top just less than eight minutes into the game by sending a pass from senior Connor Burt into the back of the net.
Junior defender Matt Hedges gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead with close to 20 minutes left in the match.
Hedges was in the right place when Green Bay sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Wehking deflected a shot from Oluyedun, allowing Hedges to finish the play with a short shot to the back of the net. It was his third goal of the season.
The goal proved all the more important when, minutes later, Green Bay senior J.C. Banks scored on a header off a pass from junior Tony Walls.
In the end, Butler held on to the match and outshot Green Bay 14-2.
Heading into yet another conference match on the road against the Milwaukee Panthers (2-4-2, 1-1 HL), the Bulldogs hoped to continue the same trend.
Sunday’s game began with a defensive stalemate as both teams went scoreless for the first 45 minutes of play.
The Bulldogs were able to put four shots on goal, but Milwaukee junior goalkeeper Bryce Boyd let nothing past his grasp.
Hedges finally broke the scoreless deadlock just five minutes into the second half.
The goal by Hedges turned out to be the game-winner, his second of the weekend and third of the year.
Hedges was named co-Horizon League Player of the Week for Sept. 20-26. He is second in the league in goals scored.
The Panthers picked up the attack in the latter part of the second half, outshooting the Bulldogs 10-5, but they were unable to surpass Butler’s defensive ranks. The Bulldogs held on for a 2-0 win.
Sippola said defense has been integral to the team’s success.
“We feel that if we can limit the amount of mistakes made and goals scored against us, regardless of the pedigree of team we are playing, we will not be outmatched,” he said.
The Bulldogs will return home for two games at the Butler Bowl versus Valparaiso on Friday and Evansville on Tuesday.