The Butler men’s soccer team protected its flawless record Saturday when senior captain Ben Sippola netted a penalty kick in overtime versus UIC.
The dramatic ending gave the Bulldogs (10-0, 4-0 HL) a 2-1 win over the Flames (3-7, 1-3 HL), now down to eighth in the league.
The dramatic ending was a fitting one for a game full of early goals and firm defense.
Scoring started early when sophomore defender Jordan Burt was able to outplay UIC goalkeeper Steve Purdy by guiding a ball into the net from 30 yards out. The goal, which came just less than 12 minutes into the game, was Burt’s first of the season.
Flames’ redshirt junior midfielder Derek Huffman forced a tie when he scored from 10 yards out just before halftime.
Senior midfielder Ben Sippola explained how soccer can have a lot of ups and downs.
“Soccer is a weird game,” Sippola said. “You can pummel a team for nearly 90 minutes but they can have one good moment and beat you.”
The Bulldogs used halftime to regroup and demonstrated strong defense in the second half.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the Flames did the same.
The second half finished without a goal.
Butler head coach Kelly Findley said he had confidence in his team heading into overtime.
“We know that we’re a fit team,” Findley said. “It’s one of our strengths. I would definitely say that our fitness level is one of the main reasons why we’re 10-0.”
That fitness has served Butler well, as the last three Bulldog wins have come off goals in the final 20 minutes of the game.
Following suit, the Bulldogs made a defensive stop and countered with a 3-on-1 breakaway nine minutes into overtime.
Sippola had the ball in the center of the field and dished it left to freshman forward Austin Oldham, who found his way into the box.
A UIC defender took him down illegally and, after the referee’s whistle, Sippola set up to take the penalty kick.
In the waning seconds of the first overtime period, Sippola sent a shot that deflected off a reaching Purdy and rolled into the goal.
Sippola explained what went through his head at the moment he took the shot.
“I was just really tired, but I just visualized it going into the back of the net,” Sippola said. “I wasn’t too nervous. I just kind of stepped up and hit it.
“I was relieved when it went in, got excited and ran around like an idiot.”
Sippola decided to make his post-game run shirtless.
The goal in the 99th minute of play sent the Bulldogs to 10-0 on the season, leaving them the only NCAA Division I team without a loss or a tie.
Although Butler is now ranked ninth by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, the Bulldogs are not getting distracted by rankings.
Sippola said he and the team don’t think much of the national attention.
“Honestly, it’s not really that big of a deal yet,” he said. “Up to this point we’re proud of what we’ve done.
All in all, it doesn’t make any difference if come November, you’re not in the NCAA tournament.”
The Bulldogs continue their season with a home game against Bowling Green State at 4 p.m. today and continue forward with a game against Wright State on Friday.