Oct. 30, 2013
ROCHESTER, Mich. – The UIC men’s soccer team was able to outlast conference-foe Oakland Wednesday night at the OU Soccer Field and come away with a 1-0 victory to secure the 2013 Horizon League regular season championship. Redshirt-senior Josh Beard scored a penalty-kick goal in the 36th minute to give the Flames their ninth shutout of the season.
"It is exciting for all the players, alumni and department to get the win tonight and secure the regular season title," said head coach Sean Phillips. "This group has been able to find a way to win in a number of different ways this year and tonight was not any different."
UIC improves to 13-3-0, with an unbeaten 6-0-0 record in the League and 5-0-0 tally on the road, after collecting its seventh-straight win and 13th victory in its last 14 games. Oakland moves to 5-6-5 on the season and 3-2-1 in the Horizon League after losing its last four matches.
"Oakland is a talented and experienced group that brought a tremendous fight and competitive spirit this evening," Phillips added. "We were able to find a way to deal with their pressure at the start of the game and create some momentum during the second part of the first half, which resulted in the penalty kick that Josh (Beard) converted. During the second half, Oakland increased their pressure and made it very difficult for us to create a rhythm. However, we were able to bend and not break defensively and make enough plays and show enough character to get the result."
It was a defensive battle while vying for possession in the first half, with the Flames making three attempts and the Golden Grizzlies producing five, causing freshman goalkeeper Andrew Putna to record three saves. In the 36th minute, the Flames were rewarded a penalty kick after senior Bob Novak was taken down in the box, and Beard was able to convert to give the Flames a 1-0 lead with his third goal of the season.
In the second half, UIC continued to put pressure on Oakland and was able to break up their chances to hold off OU the rest of the match, especially in the final minutes. UIC got off three shots in the period, with two on goal by junior Jesus Torres and freshman Gonzalo Romo, while Oakland held the game’s shot advantage at 10-6.
Putna ultimately made five saves during the match, improving his season save percentage to .774 with 41 saves and collecting his ninth shutout for a League-best 0.74 goals against average.
This year's title marks the fifth all-time for the Flames, having previously captured regular season championships in 1999, 2000, 2006 and, most recently, 2008. The win guarantees the No. 1 seed in the Horizon League Tournament, with UIC serving as the host to the semifinals and finals.
With two games to go in the regular season, the Flames return home for the final stretch and will play host to Drake at 1 p.m. CT Sunday at Flames Field.