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By Paul Rakszawski
The DeSales men’s soccer team won its fourth Freedom Conference championship in six years, shutting out Eastern University 3-0 on Saturday, November 6. In front of a lively home crowd, the Bulldogs netted three first-half goals and cruised to victory, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in the process.
Sophomore mid-fielder, Steve Krause, was named the Freedom Conference playoffs Most Valuable Player; he scored two goals in the playoffs, including one just before halftime against Eastern.
Senior Jon Mill opened the scoring for the Bulldogs just before the 14:00 minute mark, taking a free kick and heading it into the right corner of the net. About nine minutes later, the Bulldogs struck again, as junior Jonathan Balfour took a pass from senior Aaron Gildner and volleyed it to junior Derek Long, who blasted it past the goal keeper to earn his team-leading 16th goal of the year, giving the Bulldogs a commanding 2-0 lead.The Bulldogs put the final nail in the coffin with 38 seconds left in the first half when senior Rusty Helwig dribbled into the box and passed to fellow senior Sean Baker, who headed the ball to Krause. Krause made sure the ball found the back of the net, effectively putting to rest any
The second half was more of a defensive effort for the Bulldogs, but the outcome was never in question, as sophomore standout goalie Adam Franczak made three saves to keep Eastern off the board.
As the clock was running down, the enthusiastic crowd serenaded Eastern with chants of “Na-na-na-na, hey hey hey, good-bye” and “We are the Champions” by Queen. The final
buzzer sounded and the Bulldogs swarmed Franczak near their own goal. The celebration was on.
For the players, the emotion was very tangible following the game.
“Oh my God, I’m so excited, I don’t even know what to say,” said Long. “We took it to them in the first half and just relaxed in the second half. It was a great game.”
“Overwhelming emotion right now,” said Balfour.
“I’m pumped … jubilant, let’s go with that,” senior Joe Yoha commented.
“We’re feeling great!” said senior Corey Horn. “[The seniors] came in and left as champions.”
“I’m so pumped!” exclaimed sophomore Tyler Nolan, whose long throw-in set up the Bulldogs’ third goal. “We got that first goal and it gave us more confidence.”
The Bulldogs still have at least one game left to play, however, and that was on the minds of some, including their coach.
“The guys wanted to win the conference championship from the first day. Now we’ve got NCAA’s next, but we’re just taking it one game at a time,” said head coach, George Crampton.
“Our focus is to win the first game of the NCAA tournament,” said Yoha. “We want to get to the
But on a day in which the Bulldogs tied their school record for wins in a season (15) and won their eighth straight game, the focus was on the present, not the future. “I’m obviously very excited right now, especially for the seniors and everyone else,” said senior Sky Rimmele. “We really bonded this season, and now we’re champs.”