By: Sean Neidig, sports information graduate assistant
COLUMBUS, Ohio - When Capital University Men's Soccer takes the field on Friday night, it will do so knowing that a win will give them the right to compete for the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Championship and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. To play for that though, the top-seeded Crusaders must first get past the fifth-seeded Ohio Northern University Polar Bears. Kickoff between ONU and Capital in the OAC Tournament Semifinal at Bernlohr Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.
How They Got Here
Capital secured the No. 1 seed in the 2018 OAC Tournament on the back of an 8-1 conference record and by virtue of holding the tiebreaker over John Carroll University. The Crusaders began the season with four wins and started the season 7-1. Cap outscored its opponents 22-5 in the first four games and the lone loss in that span was a 1-0 overtime loss to Case Western Reserve University. The Crusaders then beat the College of Wooster and Thomas More College (Ky.) before losing 3-0 to Ohio Wesleyan University on Sept. 26 to finish non-conference play. In the OAC opener on Sept. 29, Capital defeated Baldwin Wallace University 5-1, the first of four consecutive wins. In there was a 1-0 double-overtime win against John Carroll that gave the Cruasders the tiebreaker for home field throughout the OAC Tournament. Following a loss to the University of Mount Union, Capital responded with a 7-1 win over Muskingum University and on Oct. 20, the Crusaders beat ONU 6-0. Cap then finished the regular season with a 3-1 victory over Wilmington College and a 5-0 win over Otterbein University in the finale. Cap outscored its opponents 21-2 over its final four games.
Ohio Northern University comes to Capital on the heels of a nail-biting 1-0 win over Otterbein in the OAC Tournament Quarterfinals on Tuesday. Perennially one of the OAC's top teams, the Polar Bears earned the 5-seed in this year's tournament after dropping the final three conference games of the regular season. ONU began the year 1-2-1 against tougher competition but then went on a tear with seven consecutive wins. The first of those wins was a 3-0 triumph over No. 19 Ohio Wesleyan University and the last win in the streak was a 1-0 victory over Marietta to open OAC play. The Polar Bears then dropped a close 1-0 contest to Baldwin Wallace University before wins over Muskingum and Wilmington. A 2-1 defeat to John Carroll preceded a 4-1 win against Heidelberg University but a 6-0 loss to the Crusaders began a three-game slide. ONU then lost 1-0 to Otterbein and 2-0 to Mount Union before getting revenge against the Cardinals on Tuesday night.
Players to Watch
The Crusaders have several locks for the All-OAC First Team, most notably potential OAC Forward of the Year Chewy Gordon. The senior leads the conference and is tied for third in the country with 23 goals, just two behind the national leader. Gordon has scored four hat tricks this season and has eight multi-goal games. Assisting Gordon, literally, throughout the season has been junior defender Greg Knox who leads the OAC with 16 assists, tied for second nationally. In goal, senior Logan Wiedman has taken the reins and been one of the most consistent keepers in the conference in his first year as a starter. Wiedman ranks second in the OAC in save percentage (.826), third goals against average (0.95), third in saves (71) and fifth in goals allowed (15).
Sophomore Beelal Hasan leads the Polar Bears with 13 goals, fourth in the conference, and has six assists for a team-leading 32 points, also fourth in the OAC. Freshman Levi King has also got it done for ONU this year with 10 goals and a team-leading eight assists for 28 points. King's 10 goals are the fifth-most in the conference. Anthony DeNoi (4), Bryan Kern (3), Matt Studenic (3) and Joseph Schulte (2) are the other Polar Bears with more than one goal this year. Between the pipes, freshman John Lombardo has started 13 games, all in ONU's past 15 contests, after senior Will Velotta started the first five matches of the season. Lombardo is 9-4 in his 13 starts and has recorded four shutouts while making 47 saves. Lombardo's 15 goals allowed are tied for the fourth-fewest conceded goals in the league and his 1.13 goals against average is the fourth-lowest.
Where They Rank
As a team, Capital is ninth in the country in scoring offense at 3.41 goals per game, a mark that leads the conference by more than a goal. Cap's 58 goals are 14 more than ONU in second and Capital has the second-most assists in the OAC with 40. Capital's 19 goals allowed are the third-fewest in the conference. The Crusaders have kept six clean sheets this year, tied for the third most in the conference.
Ohio Northern has scored the second-most goals in the conference with 44, behind only the Crusaders, and has the third-best goals per game average at 2.20. The Polar Bears lead the conference with 42 assists and no one is better than ONU at generating set pieces as evidenced by the team's league-leading 147 corner kicks, 32 more than the next team on the list. On the defensive side of the ball, ONU has allowed the third-most goals in the OAC at 29 but 15 of those came in two games against Calvin and Capital. The Polar Bears have the second-most shutouts in the conference with seven.
Tuesday, October 30 Quarterfinals
#6 Marietta (4-5-0) at #3 Mount Union (5-3-1) - MTU 2, MAR 1
#5 Ohio Northern (4-5-0) at #4 Otterbein (5-4-0) - ONU 1, OTT 0
Adults $8.00 Single Game
Seniors (62) or Military $6.00 Single Game
Non-OAC Students $3.00 Single Game
OAC students are admitted free of charge with valid ID.
OAC 2018-19 passes are not valid for the tournament.
OAC Lifetime passes will be honored