The two-part scenario was simple for the Butler men’s soccer team entering last Wednesday: Win or tie the final two matches of the regular season or go home.
The second match resulted in a 1-0 loss for the Bulldogs (7-8-3, 2-4-2) to the league’s second place team, Wright State, on Saturday afternoon at the Butler Bowl, capping a disappointing conference season.
“We went out there and had to play positive,” coach Paul Snape said. “We had to make sure that we didn’t overcommit ourselves, and we went out and created a lot of good chances.”
Butler had put itself in position to move on to the Horizon League Tournament with a win or tie against the Raiders (10-6-2, 5-2-1) after tying 1-1 with league-leading Valparaiso on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs had several scoring opportunities early on, including freshman forward Chad Rigg striking the crossbar with a shot in the opening minute of the match.
However, the first major momentum shift came in Wright State’s favor when sophomore midfielder Will McAteer successfully converted a corner kick in the 24th minute for the match’s first and only goal.
“[Snape] articulated some good tactical aspects at halftime that put us in position to score,” junior defenseman Jared Isenthal said. “Our execution kind of failed us.”
The Raiders were able to keep the Bulldogs from scoring the rest of the match despite Butler finishing with a 17-8 advantage in shots and a 9-4 advantage in shots-on-goal.
In the final 15 minutes, Butler struck the crossbar twice but could not find the back of the net as time eventually expired in the match and on Butler’s season.
Sophomore forward Austin Oldham led the Bulldogs’ attack with four shots, and junior goalkeeper John Dawson contributed three saves in the loss.
The match was the last in the collegiate careers of Butler’s five seniors: defenseman JC Aikenhead, midfielder Lucas Eichhorn, midfielder Dustin Mares, midfielder Randy Richter and student manager Jack Morlock.
“It was a unique senior class,” Isenthal said. “Each one brought different aspects to the team that a team needs.
“Most of all [we are going to miss] their experience. That kind of set the tone for what it means to play soccer at Butler.”
The five seniors were part of the winningest stretch in Butler history, compiling a 50-15-12 record while playing in a blue and white uniform.
They also played in two NCAA tournaments and won two Horizon League regular season titles during their careers.
Next season’s squad expects to return 10 of the 11 players who started against Wright State, including Isenthal, Oldham and Dawson.