The Butler men’s soccer team heads into league play Friday ranked No. 17 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll.
The Bulldogs moved up four spots in the poll after Saturday night, when sophomore forward Julian Cardona broke a 0-0 deadlock between the Grizzles (1-5) and the Bulldogs (5-0) by scoring just 12 minutes into the second half.
Butler had its fair share of offensive pressure with shots on goal from Cardona, freshman Austin Oldham, senior Jacob Capito and sophomore Jared Isenthal. But Cardona’s goal would be all the team needed.
The Bulldogs clinched a 1-0 victory over Oakland University, holding the lead for the final 33 minutes of the game.
In those final minutes, Oakland had eight shots on goal and outshot the Bulldogs 13-11, supplying relentless pressure to Butler’s senior goalkeeper Fabian Knopfler and the rest of the Bulldog defense.
Despite Oakland’s effort, Knopfler was able to walk away with his third shutout of the season and the 13th of his career–the third highest total in Butler men’s soccer history.
Two of Knopfler’s three saves came in the last nine minutes of play.
Butler head coach Kelly Findley said Knopfler is a solid goalkeeper.
“[Knopfler] doesn’t give away goals,” he said. “He makes those great saves when needed, and last night, he did just that.”
Senior midfielder Ben Sippola said Oakland’s high-pressure and direct style of offensive play created some difficulties for the Bulldog defenders.
But, Sippola said, Butler was able to define a method for beating such a team.
“It comes down to figuring out how to work their team, and then working hard,” he said.
The Bulldogs will now head into the beginning of Horizon League play with games against Green Bay on Friday and Milwaukee on Sunday.
The Bulldogs were regular season conference champions last season.
Findley said he is confident about the upcoming games.
“To be honest, our season kind of starts over at this point even though we are pleased with where we are now,” Findley said.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Bulldogs have climbed up the national rankings, recognizing the impressive play that the team has displayed.
Regardless of the team’s ranking, Findley said he maintains his focus on the upcoming conference matches.
“League play is league play,” Findley said. “That’s our goal—to win a [league] championship.”