Heading into Horizon League play a good showing in Kentucky was key.
Goal-scoring came naturally to the Butler men’s soccer team last weekend when they went 2-0 to win Kentucky’s Wildcat Invitational in Lexington, Ky.
The three-day event placed the Bulldogs (4-0) against the Houston Baptist Huskies and the Loyola Marymount Lions.
Butler was able to roll through each game, holding each opponent to one goal.
Friday was a dogfight between the Huskies and Bulldogs, but Butler moved through the game with ease.
Houston Baptist allowed senior Bulldog captain Ben Sippola to become the ninth player in Butler men’s soccer history to record a hat trick, as the Bulldogs tamed the Huskies 5-1 in the first round.
However, even with his record offensive performance, Sippola wanted to remind people that scoring isn’t his primary focus.
“I’m not really a goal scorer,” he said. “I’m expected to score goals, but being a senior, it was exciting just to step up into a leadership role.”
The offensive hurt continued when senior Jacob Capito scored from the far edge of the box after an assist from junior Matt Hedges.
Freshman Adekunle Oluyedun finished the scoring in the 88th minute with his first collegiate goal.
The five goals scored by the Bulldogs were the most by a Butler men’s soccer team in a game since 2007.
After Friday, Butler had outscored its three opponents this season 10-1.
Butler head coach Kelly Findley said the dominating performance made him feel confident heading into their second game because a big win not only boosts team morale, but also allows the team to rest many players and use their full rotation the next day.
Action against the Lions initially led to a 1-1 deadlock after goals by Oluyedun and Loyola Marymount’s Kyle Johanson.
Hedges broke the tie in the 58th minute, guiding a throw-in from freshman Jamie Vollmer to the far post.
The win was solidified by Sippola on a free kick whose speedy strike from the corner of the box beat the opposing goalkeeper, Jack McCormack.
For his four-goal and one-assist performance, Sippola earned two awards: the Horizon League named him men’s soccer Player of the Week, and Goal.com named him their National Player of the Week.
Findley said the staff and players’ underlying goal this season is “to be a program, not just a team.”
Findley said the team’s desire to build a foundation of success to last many years instead of narrowing focus to an individual season of play.
He also said that the strong performance at Kentucky this weekend was a step in the right direction.
With strong performances from the incoming freshmen class so far this season, a record-setting amount of goals and four players named to the Wildcat Invitational All-Tournament team, it has been a promising start to the young 2010 campaign.
Nevertheless, Findley said his focus is to effectively use the upcoming week for improvement.
“You can only try to get better at what you do,” he said. “We feel like if we can get on top of our strengths, we can get on top of games.”
Butler plays Saturday at Oakland (Calif.) at 7 p.m.
Horizon League play begins Sept. 24 at defending conference champion Green Bay.