Men’s soccer No. 1 in nation

Tim Downer

When the Division II men’s soccer National Rankings came out Oct. 2, Northern Kentucky University found itself in an unchartered territory –No. 1 in the nation for the first time in the program’s history.

The thought of being the top team in the nation never crossed the mind of Head Coach John Basalyga earlier in the year.

“There are so many good teams in our region, that you hope to be top in the region, not No. 1 in the country,” Basalyga said. “I would never have thought of this.”

The men’s team vaulted to the top spot by keeping its undefeated record alive with two dominating 1-0 victories over the weekend against Southern Illinois at Edwardsville and Quincy University.

The first win came in a thrilling fashion over nationally-ranked No. 15, defending GLVC champions, SIU at Edwardsville Sept. 28. The game remained scoreless through regulation and one 10-minute overtime session, despite the Norse’s complete control of the ball and several clear shots on goal for Norse forward Braden Bishop. In the second, and final overtime, it was Bishop who was given a chance at redemption when the Norse was awarded a penalty kick with just over two minutes remaining.

“That was the most nervous I’ve been on a (penalty kick). There was a lot on the line. I was trying not to think about (the missed shots earlier in the game) while I was taking it.” Bishop said later.

As Bishop lined up for his shot, he had already decided he was shooting for the left side of the goal, and, fortunately, as he struck the ball, the Edwardsville goalie leapt in the opposite direction.

A split-second later, the ball was in the back of the net and the Norse bench was storming the field. The perfect record and national ranking were secure.

The victory, however, became somewhat bitter-sweet when it was later learned that Freshman Steven Beattie, the team’s second leading goal-scorer, would be sidelined for a few weeks with a torn ankle ligament suffered in the first half.

“They said it would be three to four weeks, but it depends on how much rehab I do. I think I could be back next week, but realistically it’s gonna be two to three weeks,” Beattie said after the game against Quincy.

The match against Quincy, Sept. 30, was also a lopsided affair which the score of 1-0 once again did not do justice to the Norse’s dominance. Senior Jason Larkin scored in the 29th minute, as the Norse went on to out-shoot its opponent 17-5 in the game and improve its record to 12-0.

“The kids have stepped up. We have beaten some good teams to get to this point, (but) it ain’t over yet,” Basalyga said, expressing concern over the possibility of his team becoming complacent.

NKU will go on the road to defend its No. 1 national ranking as it will head to No. 24 University of Indianapolis, Oct. 5.