The Butler men’s soccer team proved its legitimacy as a top team in the nation with its two most recent victories.
The wins allowed the team to jump up to sixth place in the most recent National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll.
The Bulldogs (15-0-1, 7-0 HL) are now hoping to close out the regular season undefeated when they take on Cleveland State (8-9, 4-3 HL) at home Thursday.
The team can still lay claim to being one of only two teams in the nation without a loss after another week of play.
The Bulldogs started by taking down Big Ten champion and then-No. 25 Indiana University at Bill Armstrong Stadium Oct. 27.
“It was great,” head coach Kelly Findley said of his team’s win. “I think a lot of people were saying that we haven’t played a really difficult schedule, and I think we answered all of the nay-sayers by taking care of business when we needed to.”
Indiana has since fallen out of the top 25.
With the win against the Hoosiers (9-5-2, 4-0-1 Big Ten), Butler headed to Detroit with a chance to clinch the conference regular season title.
Butler went straight to work against the Titans (7-7-2, 4-3 HL), with a goal in the 11th minute from junior defender Matt Hedges.
The scoring opportunity arose from a foul restart, when senior midfielder Ben Sippola guided the ball through traffic to Hedges, who scored it, creating a 1-0 lead.
Detroit’s defense did not make things easy on itself, regardless of how well Butler played. The Titans committed 22 fouls during the game, including two yellow cards, which allowed Butler’s set-piece expertise to lead to goals.
The goal was Hedges’ fifth of the season, matching his total from the 2009 season.
The Bulldogs continued to apply pressure and, in the 42nd minute of play, senior midfielder Kyle Pateros dribbled to the right side of the goal and found freshman forward Adekunle Oluyedun.
Oluyedun sent the shot into the back of the net, tallying what was also his fifth goal of the season.
But the strong offensive play wasn’t the only highlight for the Bulldogs.
Detroit managed just one shot on goal throughout the entire game, leading to the Bulldogs’ eighth shutout of the season.
It was also the 15th shutout of senior goalkeeper Fabian Knopfler’s career.
“Obviously, to remain undefeated in our league was huge,” Hedges said after Saturday’s win. “Detroit is a tough place to play, so to get a shutout and the results that we did just makes this week a little more enjoyable.
“Now we just have to take care of Cleveland State.”
As the regular season comes to a close for the Bulldogs, their consistency in training and preparation has been the key to their success.
“To be fair, we make sure we are in good shape all of the time,” Findley said. “I think it’s a by-product of our quality defending and doing a good job of capitalizing on our opportunities.”
With Friday’s final regular season game against Cleveland State quickly approaching and the Horizon League tournament opening the following Tuesday, Findley said he still continues to have his team focus on one game at a time.
“Not really, at this point,” he said about having any plans for the upcoming tournament. “We don’t know who our opponent is yet, but, like I’ve said before, it’s most important for us to make sure we do what we do best.”