By: Sean Neidig, sports information graduate assistant
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Playing in front of home fans for the first time will always provide a team with extra energy and Capital University Men's Soccer needed every ounce of it in its 2-0 win over the third-ranked team in the country, the University of St. Thomas (Minn.), Friday night.
The Crusaders (2-1) played most of the first half in their own territory but did well to control the ball for the majority of the first 15 minutes. Cap's backline and midfield dominated possession, cycling the ball from side to side and probing the Tommie defense with long balls forward to Luke Morais (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville South) and Chewy Gordon (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville Central).
That discipline paid off in the form of Capital's first goal in the 24th minute. After a nice attacking buildup, Trevor Collins (Powell, Ohio/Olentangy Liberty) headed a ball toward goal that was blocked but Daniel Bundschuh (Cincinnati, Ohio/Walnut Hills) blasted the ball into the back of the net off the deflection to put Cap up 1-0.
Capital added to that lead in the 75th minute with Bundschuh's second goal of the night, a booming header from the right side of the goal from Morais that sent the other Capital players, and Capital fans, into a frenzy. Those were the only goals scored and Capital needed both, with the Tommies (3-1) putting the pedal to the floor in the second half.
After taking seven shots in the first half, St. Thomas took eight in the second. However, there was no question that the shots the Tommies took in the second had much more urgency and were of higher quality. St. Thomas had two shots inside the first 10 minutes of the half, one of which required a save.
As the clocked ticked away, the Tommies continued their second half barrage in an attempt to even up the score. But just as it was in the first half, Cap's backline was alert, stopping nearly every attempt by St. Thomas to move into the box and blocking the majority of the balls that did make it through.
As good as Capital's defense was though, senior goalkeeper Justin Niswonger (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville) was on yet another level. Niswonger made six saves, at least three of which were spectacular stops to prevent clear goals.
With about 30 minutes left in the game, St. Thomas had a clean shot at the cage but a full extension from Niswonger pushed the ball above the crossbar and out of play. Ten minutes after that, Niswonger made a similar play on a shot from the edge that required him to leap across the face of the goal and punch the ball out.
St. Thomas' aggressiveness in the final half hour of the game resulted in five shots on goal. The Crusader defense continued to stand tall until the final whistle, shutting the door on a team that was averaging three goals per game coming into the night. For the game, the Tommies had a 15-5 advantage in shots and 12-2 advantage in corners.
The win was Niswonger's second of the year and he picked up his second shutout of 2017. Capital has a quick turnaround, as they will host MIllikin University on Saturday, Sept. 9 at Purmort Field at Bernlohr Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.