“Failure waits for those that rest on success made yesterday.”
Butler men’s soccer head coach Kelly Findley uses this quote to keep his squad focused on the future and not the past.
“We are trying to not get ahead of ourselves,” Findley said. “We are only as good as our next game.”
But for the Bulldogs (9-0, 3-0 HL), who are now the only unbeaten and un-tied team in the nation, it is difficult not to glance in the rearview mirror.
Findley’s squad is ranked 12th in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll and is the top-ranked team in the state of Indiana.
“The ranking is more of an afterthought,” Findley said. “It is probably more important for recruiting, but we are only worrying about our next game and getting better everyday.”
The 12th-ranked Bulldogs edged Evansville, 2-1, at the Butler Bowl on yesterday. After a grueling first half of play, the game stood tied at 0-0.
Butler took a 1-0 lead on a header by freshman forward Adekunle Oluyedun in the 55th minute, before the Aces’ (4-5-1) senior Tom Irvin tied the game in the 67th minute on a header set up by a corner kick.
Less than two minutes later, Irvin was caught striking a blow to the head of Butler junior Matt Hedges.
Irvin was given a red card and the Aces were forced to finish the game with a one man disadvantage.
“Often times, it is still hard to score goals,” Findley said. “Even though they have lost a player, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are automatically going to get a goal.”
Butler sealed its ninth consecutive victory on a rebound goal by senior Kyle Pateros with just 1:31 remaining in the game. The goal was ultimately set up by a long throw-in by freshman Jamie Vollmer.
“He’s the smallest guy on our team, so I don’t know where he pulls that from,” Findley said. “I have never seen anyone able to throw it that far.”
Friday’s match against Valparaiso, Butler’s first at home since Sept. 1, went down to the wire, forcing the Bulldogs to rely on strong defensive play and persistence in order to win.
The game remained in a scoreless deadlock until senior defenseman Connor Burt’s goal with less than two minutes remaining in the second overtime. Burt headed a cross 20 yards out from senior midfielder Ben Sippola, redirecting it into the back of the net.
“We are getting big performances from big players,” Findley said. “The upperclassmen are having some great leadership moments.”
Both Burt and Sippola are seniors and just last week, Hedges was awarded Horizon League Co-Player of the Week.
But the Bulldogs are getting solid play from more than just experienced veterans.
Underclassmen are also playing significant minutes for the Bulldogs, including freshmen forwards Oluyedun and Austin Oldham, freshman defenseman Vollmer and sophomore forward Julian Cardona.
“This is the hardest year I have ever had to select a team because we have so many quality players,” Findley said. “I attribute everything we are doing to the quality and depth of our team.”
The Bulldogs’ success has caught the attention of their opponents and Findley said he recognizes that his squad has an ever-growing target on its back.
“Through the first 25 minutes of every game, we are getting everybody’s best shot,” he said. “They all look like world beaters.”
The Bulldogs’ depth and fitness has allowed them to withstand those tough first halves and eventually wear down foes.
During their nine-game winning streak, the Bulldogs have outscored opponents 13-2 in the second half of games.
But Findley had mixed feelings about returning to the Bowl for the upcoming home stretch.
“The players had to readjust to being at home with classes and all of the other responsibilities that come with being a student athlete,” Findley said. “There are more distractions at home.
“When you are on the road, you are staying in hotels and eating nice food and are just worried about the game.”
Still, Findley said he recognizes the upside of home games for his team.
“There are also some distinct advantages to being back in Indianapolis,” he said. “We have good fans, and we also have a big field, which is a huge advantage for us.”
The soccer field inside the Butler Bowl is larger than the average field. It measures 80 yards by 120 yards, and its spacious confines allow the Bulldogs to move the ball around and create opportunities more so than other fields do.
After a month of traveling, the Bulldogs will be able to enjoy a homestand that will last until Oct. 13.
Butler will put its undefeated record and No. 12 ranking on the line against UIC on Saturday at the Butler Bowl at 4 p.m.