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Saints draw No. 15 Olivet Nazarene, await home playoff game

The Holy Cross College men’s soccer team last faced a ranked opponent in their first game of the season, and the outcome was less than desirable. 

Having just played an exhibition game against Grace College, the Saints team hosted then-ranked No. 21 Bethel University. The match was a 1-1 tie at the half, but the Pilots broke the game open in the second half to win over the Saints 6-1.

The Saints began their regular season by facing a ranked team, so it was only fitting to end their regular season by facing a ranked squad. And by going on the road to face the No. 15 ranked Olivet Nazarene University, the result shows how much this Saints team has grown this season. 

The first half was a back-and-forth struggle that ended in a scoreless tie, with the Saints holding a 9 to 6 shooting advantage. 

The scoring began in the second half for the Saints when junior forward Gabe Nyenka found sophomore forward Kevin Vidana, who put it past Tigers keeper Mike Giannotta in the 55th minute. 

The Saints held the lead until the 68th minute, when Konstantin Papanikolaou converted a penalty kick, beating sophomore goalkeeper Claudio Fuentealba. 

The back-and-forth nature of the game continued until the 78th minute when the Saints would reclaim the lead, courtesy of junior defender’sVictor Sellu’s goal (assisted by senior midfielder Elmin Ejup). 

It looked like the Saints would hold onto the lead and earn a significant conference win, but Olivet was not yet done. In the 84th minute, Nick Kilian found Max Jasper, who was able to score, tying the game. 

With the 2-2 tie, the Saints finish with a final overall record of 9-4-4 and a conference record of 7-1-4 (25 points). 

Conference tournament preview

As it currently stands, the Saints are the only CCAC team to have finished their conference slate. The remaining 12 teams have at least one more game.

What does that mean for the Saints? Well, thanks to the draw against Nazarene, the Saints got one point. That means they are guaranteed a top-four playoff spot and to host a first-round playoff game.

While the Saints are assured a home playoff game, their opponent will remain unknown until Saturday. There are currently three teams the Saints can match up with in the first round: Judson, Trinity International and Roosevelt.

A key matchup is Governors State against Trinity International. 

Governors State currently has 24 points, so they would need an outright win against Trinity to pass the Saints. A tie with Trinity would result in a 25-point tie between Holy Cross and Governors State, for which Holy Cross has the head-to-head tiebreaker, so the Saints would maintain third. 

Governors State hosts Trinity and has a better record. A win would move them into third, demoting Holy Cross to fourth. 

Roosevelt plays Indiana Northwest, who is 0-10 in conference play, meaning Roosevelt is likely to win their matchup and earn three points (they currently have 19). 

Assuming Roosevelt wins, they would have 22 points, meaning that Judson would need, at worst, a tie, as they have the head-to-head tiebreaker against Roosevelt. 

Judson plays Saint Xavier University in a game that is a toss-up. As the home team, Judson has a slight edge.

The most likely scenario may be that Governors State beats Trinity, bumping Holy Cross to fourth, while Judson beats or ties Saint Xavier. At the same time, Roosevelt is likely to defeat winless IU Northwest, which means that Holy Cross would host Judson, who uses their win against Roosevelt as a tiebreaker to stay in fifth. The Saints tied Judson, 1-1, back on Sept. 13.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu

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