There is no place like home. That home field advantage was evident Saturday night and Wednesday night when the Billikens faced Central Arkansas and then No.4 Creighton. Over 4,000 people showed up to men’s soccer homecoming match against the University of Central Arkansas and over 3,000 for the game against No.4 Creighton. The No. 21 Billikens treated a large homecoming crowd to a 4-1 victory against Central Arkansas and a crucial 1-0 victory against No. 4 Creighton.
The victories against Central Arkansas and Creighton gives the Bills a 6-2 record going into their final non-conference match against Virginia Commonwealth. The victory against Creighton also gives the Bills a signature victory on this young season.
The Bills were without two of their regular starters with Jon Roeckle and Raymond Lee both being injured for each match.
In the Central Arkansas match, the Bills struck first after a Central Arkansas defender had an apparent handball in the box. This gave the Bills a penalty kick in the 22nd minute. Alex Sweetin converted on the penalty kick for his second goal of the season. The Bills held a 1-0 lead going into halftime.
However, in the 55th minute, Central Arkansas got a goal after a misplay on the backline to make it a 1-1 game. A mere 50 seconds later, the Bills responded. Francisco Vizcaino sent a ball over the top of Central Arkansas defense to Robert Kristo who controlled it with his chest and kicked over the head of the Central Arkansas keeper. That was Kristo’s third goal of the season and it reclaimed a 2-1 lead for the Bills.
“It was a good reaction to giving up a goal,” said Head Coach Mike McGinty. “I thought we were a little casual when we gave it up and we should have done better coming out at halftime. I thought that we started the second half a little complacent and we have to have a little more discipline coming out of halftime.”
The Bills got some help from Central Arkansas in the 67th minute with an own goal giving the Bills a 3-1 advantage and then in the 88th minute Adnan Gabeljic tacked on an insurance goal in the 88th minute to give the Bills their final goal of the match.
“That is a different level,” said Kristo, talking about the game against Creighton on Wednesday. “That’s the game that we want to play. That is the NCAA Tournament game that we are looking for; that’s a test, that’s the big one. We had one against UConn, unfortunately we did not come through and we came a little short. Now it is another big test and this one we have to go through and win this one.”
Creighton presented a whole new challenge on Wednesday. Yet, the Bills came through with a victory against the No. 4 team in the nation.
The Bills had a near opportunity on goal with a minute left in the first half. However, Filip Pavisic could not head the ball into the goal. The Bills went into halftime with the match knotted at 0-0.
In the 48th minute, Pavisic got his second yellow card of the match and knocked the Bills down to ten men on the field.
However, with ten men on the field, the Bills continued to pressure the Creighton defense. They finally got an opportunity in the 51st minute. The Creighton keeper rolled the ball out to his defenders, but none of them closed in on the ball.
Alex Sweetin attacked on the misplay after he fired a ball from about 18 yards off just past the Creighton keeper to give the Bills a 1-0 lead early in the second half.
“It was lucky how it got to me,” said Sweetin. “I could have played it to Robbie or decided to shoot that one and it decided to go in the net.”
After the goal, Creighton applied pressure on the Bills defense. Nick Shackelford made a huge save in the 56th minute to preserve the 1-0 lead. After that, the Bills defense stood firm in the face of the pressure to come away with the victory.
“The guys did good, they did really, really well,” said Head Coach Mike McGinty. “There was a ton of adversity and a bunch of things that didn’t go our way. We could have taken the easy way out and nobody did, everybody kept their head down and kept working. They showed a lot of character tonight.”
The team will travel to Richmond to take on Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday, Oct. 6 at noon to complete their non-conference schedule conference.