Mount Union men’s soccer team (10-6-2) finished off the regular season with a 1-0 victory against Otterbein (3-14-2).
The Purple Raiders would be without star keeper Jon Critell, who was out with an ankle injury. Alex Bable, a freshman who landed a four- save shutout against Muskingum, would get the call in goal for the Purple Raiders. Bable would have big shoes to fill, taking over for Critell who leads the squad with 87 saves.
Mount Union was playing simply for pride, having already clinched a berth to the OAC tournament thanks to a 2-0 victory over Muskingum on Wednesday night. This was quite an accomplishment for Mount Union Head Coach John Witkowski, leading a team that has not competed in this tournament since 2003.
“The guys are really proud; you can see they are high spirited,” Mount Union Assistant Coach Casey Marks commented. “They are really looking forward to the playoffs.”
It was a rather slow start for both sides with Mount getting the first big opportunity in the 25th minute. Junior Kevin Cindric set up Dylan Walls with what looked to be a sure goal, but the freshman striker finished with a shot high. Otterbein keeper Kyle Ripma would face a barrage of shots in the 39th, but Mount would emerge with no goals. All looked to be real scoring chances, but the Purple Raider attack failed to finish.
Senior Matt McCain would find himself pushing forward in the waning moments of the first half, but the Otterbein defense closed in and blocked the shot. The end of the half would come with 0-0 on the scoreboard. The Purple Raiders would lead in shots (11) and corner kicks (4) in the first half, while the Cardinals led in saves (3).
Ripma and Otterbein would come under pressure just three minutes into the second half, facing several shots in succession. Bable would face some threats of his own in the 56th, facing repeated shots by the advancing Cardinal offense. No goals would be scored in either case, but there were definitely some opportunities.
Mount Union would get on the board in the 68th minute with a score by Phil Spagnolo off a set piece. The junior defender from Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania took advantage of a ball bouncing around the Otterbein goal and was able to slip one by the Cardinal keeper.
Cindric nearly got one through just moments earlier, forcing Ripma to make a difficult save. The rebound struck an Otterbein defender, putting the ball out of play. Cindric would threaten again in the 76th, but the keeper was able to make the save.
The Purple Raiders were able to hold on to the 1-0 lead, sending Gerry D’Arcy’s squad home with yet another loss. The win provides Mount with the momentum needed to go into the OAC Tournament, which starts on Tuesday night when they face John Carroll University at Mount Union Stadium.
“We know what they are capable of; they know what we are capable of,” Marks continued. “There won’t be any surprises. We know what to expect.”
Critell, who will return for the John Carroll match, does understand the challenge that the postseason brings. “It is very hard to beat a team two times in a season. I think it will be good; I think we will be ready for every team that we have.”
Match photos can be found on our Facebook page or our photo gallery.