Men’s soccer clinches season title with Wednesday win

NCAA Soccer

The Flames earn the No. 1 seed in the Horizon League Tournament.

The soccer team outlasted Oakland Wednesday night, 1-0, to secure the 2013 Horizon League regular season championship.

Redshirt-senior Josh Beard scored a penalty-kick goal in the 36th minute to give the Flames their ninth shutout of the season during the match  at the OU Soccer Field in Rochester, Mich.

“It is exciting for all the players, alumni and department to get the win tonight and secure the regular season title,” head coach Sean Phillips said.

“This group has been able to find a way to win in a number of different ways this year and tonight was not any different.”

UIC improves to 13-3-0, with an unbeaten 6-0-0 record in the league and 5-0-0 tally on the road. The team collected its seventh straight win and 13th victory in its last 14 games. Oakland moves to 5-6-5 on the season and 3-2-1 in the Horizon League.

“Oakland is a talented and experienced group that brought a tremendous fight and competitive spirit,” Phillips added.

“We were able to find a way to deal with their pressure at the start of the game and create some momentum during the second part of the first half. We were able to bend and not break defensively and make enough plays and show enough character to get the result.”

It was a defensive battle in the first half, with the Flames making three attempts and the Golden Grizzlies producing five.

In the 36th minute, the Flames were awarded a penalty kick after senior Bob Novak was taken down in the box. Beard converted to give the Flames a 1-0 lead with his third goal of the season.

In the second half, UIC continued to put pressure on Oakland and broke their chances to hold off OU the rest of the match.

Freshman goalkeeper Andrew Putna made five saves during the match, improving his season save percentage to .774 with 41 saves. He collected  his ninth shutout for a league-best 0.74 goals against average.

This year’s title marks the fifth all-time for the Flames, having captured regular season championships in 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2008.

The win guarantees the No. 1 seed in the Horizon League Tournament, with UIC serving as the host to the semifinals and finals.

With two games to go in the regular season, the Flames return home to host Drake at 1 p.m. Sunday at Flames Field.

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