The Butler men’s soccer team received its first opportunity to play at the new Butler Bowl last night in an exhibition match against Eastern Illinois.
Despite a multitude of scoring opportunities, Butler mustered just two goals en route to a 2-2 draw with the visiting Panthers.
“We’re always pleased to get opportunities to score,” Butler head coach Kelly Findley said. “I think we were very close to scoring on several opportunities and just failed to make the final pass.”
Eastern Illinois struck first off of a header by senior Alex Harrison that beat senior Fabian Knopfler, marking the first goal the Butler keeper surrendered in two games.
The Bulldogs responded in the 43rd minute when sophomore forward Tyler Pollock added a header of his own to knot the score at one, moments before intermission.
Butler controlled the ball for the majority of the second half, leading to multiple shots on goal, but the team was unable to capitalize initially.
In the 82nd minute, the Panthers retook the lead off a goal by freshman Shawn Singh, set up by freshman Cameron Lauchner.
Butler did not take long to answer, as sophomore forward Blake Leyden scored to tie the match at two just three minutes later.
“Blake just seems to find a way to score goals, regardless of what position he’s playing,” Findley said. “If you put him around the goal, he’s going to find a way to put the ball at the back of the net.”
The team had better luck last Friday when goalkeepers Knopfler, sophomore Jon Dawson and freshman Andy Holte teamed up to toss a shutout. The team began its 2010 exhibition campaign with a 2-0 victory at Dayton last Friday.
With the game scoreless 31 minutes into the first period, senior midfielder Kyle Pateros scored Butler’s first goal of the year that also proved to be the game-winner. Pateros was assisted on the goal by senior Brett Heinz.
Senior Michael Clayton added a goal in the waning moments, receiving a pass from senior Dustin Mares to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead that they would not relinquish.
Findley said he was pleased with his team’s performance throughout the contest.
“I thought we did a good job of dictating the pace of the game,” Findley said. “The only thing that was disappointing was that we only scored two goals because I felt we had opportunities to score more.
“Overall, I was pleased with the shutout and our effort.”
The match was played under modified rules. It contained three periods, the first of which was the standard 45 minutes, while the second and third were 30 minutes each.
Butler will face Northwestern University at the Shindigz National Soccer Festival at IPFW on Sunday.
The Bulldogs’ regular season begins Sept. 1, when they face IPFW at the Butler Bowl.
Findley said that although he would enjoy a win over the Wildcats at the National Soccer Festival, he is more concerned about being prepared for the regular season.
“We’re always looking to win every game we play, but in [this game against Northwestern], we’re really after our process,” he said. “We would like to stay injury free, work on our restarts and look to build momentum going into Wednesday’s game against IPFW.”
Last year, Butler finished with a 14-3-2 overall record and won the regular season Horizon League crown before falling to Green Bay in the conference championship game.
The Bulldogs also qualified for the NCAA tournament where they were defeated by Indiana University in the first round.
Even with the loss of last year’s top goal scorer to gradation Boris Gatzky, Findley said he still has high expectations for this year’s group.
“Our goals this year are to win our league, get to the NCAA tournament and advance as far as we can,” he said. “We lost some quality guys, but we returned a good group of players and have added freshmen who will fill those shoes well.”
College Soccer News selected junior defender Matt Hedges to the preseason All-America team. Hedges was last season’s Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year.
This year the Bulldogs will play at the newly renovated Butler Bowl, which received both seating and press box upgrades this past spring and summer.
Findley said he and his players are excited for the opportunity to call the new Butler Bowl home this season.
“I think now we have a facility that matches the quality of our athletic programs.”