It was the beginning of a highly anticipated soccer rivalry when the BJU Bruins took on the Northland International University Pioneers Saturday night.
In the end, the Bruins were too much for the Pioneers to handle as BJU won 4-1, capping an incredible season for a first-year program with a 10-4-1 record.
The Bruins’ ability to control possession and generate offensive plays hurt a solid Pioneer team, which entered the game with a 14-3-1 record.
The Pioneers pulled together an impressive offensive drive in the beginning, but their first shot was headed out by Bruins forward Mark Sterr, and Pioneers midfielder Darrell Goff’s goal was counted as offside eight minutes into the game.
Sterr put the Bruins ahead 1-0 when he trapped a free kick, dribbled around a Northland defender and banged a beautiful shot into the back right of the net.
The Bruins almost scored minutes later when Sterr once again took the ball upfield and passed it to Stephen Lovelace on the right, who crossed it over the goal box to Matt Moore. Although Moore wasn’t able to turn in time to score, the play helped the Bruins’ communication improve in opening up the passing lane.
Northland regrouped and took multiple goal shots, but keeper Jon Sandy handled the pressure well, stopping four in a row. The Pioneers’ only goal of the night came when Goff took a pass from Josh Netz and put a deep shot into the net.
With the score tied at halftime, Bruins coach Jesse McCormick said his team had a strong bench to rotate in to keep the energy level up after the first half. “We wanted to tighten up a few things defensively and look for more opportunities on the offensive side as well,” he said.
Phil Beardslee found that opportunity in an assist from Cody Lehman early in the second half. Sterr headed a free kick from Jordan Allen over to Beardslee, who put a short volley into the goal.
The Bruins scored again when Pioneers defender Jose Navarette lost Travis Woodham on a free run, allowing Woodham to send a skipping ground shot into the net, pulling the Bruins ahead by two.
Ryan McCarty finished the scoring for the Bruins, heading in a looping corner kick by Tommy Sims to complete the 4-1 win.
Coach McCormick said his strategy wasn’t too different for this match, but that the team’s focus is the same for every game: striving to do its best and magnify Christ. Coach McCormick also said the win will help in the coming weeks as the Bruins’ season draws to a close. “We’re looking to take the confidence and momentum from this win into playoffs,” he said.