The Butler men’s soccer team will head into the Horizon League conference tournament as the No. 1 seed and host after a tie versus Cleveland State Nov. 5.
“I think for our guys and for our staff, it felt like a loss,” Butler head coach Kelly Findley said. “We were disappointed not to send our seniors out with a win.
“Now we have a bit of bitter taste in our mouth, which I think is a good thing going into the conference tournament.”
Findley was recently named Horizon League Coach of the Year.
The Bulldogs (15-0-2, 7-0-1 HL) had a commanding 21-8 advantage in shots throughout regulation and a 7-2 advantage in shots on goal.
Both teams had just one shot on goal during the two overtime periods.
“I think in the end, it’s a lot easier to destroy in soccer than it is to create.” Findley said. “We knew they would come in here just trying to get a result, and a result for them was a tie.”
Senior midfielder Ben Sippola, who earned the Horizon League Player of the Year honor for his performance this season, was unable to get a shot off during the match.
The Vikings (8-9-1, 4-3-1 HL) decided to man-mark Sippola, which completely changed the game for the Bulldog captain.
“It was almost like playing a game of basketball,” Sippola said in regards to how foreign the defensive tactic felt.
Sophomore forward Julian Cardona led the Bulldogs with five total shots, including one shot on goal.
Senior midfielder Kyle Pateros finished with three shots, including two on goal.
But the Bulldogs’ lack of offense was countered with strong defensive play.
Senior goalkeeper Fabian Knopfler had one save on the day, while junior defenseman and Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year Matt Hedges held their line.
Despite the effort demonstrated by the Bulldogs, they were unable to find the back of the net.
“Scoring goals is hard to do,” Sippola said. “To set out a game plan to stop another team from playing and scoring is much easier than it is to go and attack.”
At the end of the regular season, Butler is only the second team in Horizon League history and the first in Butler history to finish the regular season with an unbeaten record.
Evansville University, who was in the conference until 1994, was the first to accomplish the feat when they did so in 1990.
Eleven Butler seniors now enter their final stint of postseason play—Sippola, Troy Blewitt, Conner Burt, Jacob Capito, Michael Clayton, Brett Heinz, Knopfler, Dustin Mares, Pateros, Nick Powell and Matt Sall.
To date, this senior class has helped Butler to a 51-13-12 record, two Horizon League championships and a berth to the NCAA Tournament.
Even with that in mind, it is clear that Findley and his Bulldogs will head into this week’s Horizon League tournament, to be held Nov. 12 and 14, still hungry.
“We’ve had a great regular season, but it’s all a new ballgame now,” Sippola said. “Everyone comes in with a fresh outlook.
“We have to come out, let it all hang out and do whatever we have to to win.”
Butler will receive a bye in the first round of the conference tournament.
Friday, they will play the lowest seed to emerge from quarterfinals play.
The semifinals will be played in the Butler Bowl Friday, and the finals will be played in the same location on Sunday, regardless of the teams competing.