MARION, Ind. – Grace College’s men’s soccer team capped off a dramatic week of NCCAA soccer action by beating Indiana Wesleyan 2-0 on the road on Saturday.
The Lancers, after winning three matches in eight days, claimed the NCCAA Midwest Region crown to advance to the 2016 NCCAA National Championships in Kissimmee, Fla.
The regional title ends an improbable turnaround for Grace. The Lancers (10-7-3) finished the regular season in disappointing fashion in ninth place. But head coach Matt Hotchkin helped Grace flip the script of their season.
Grace defeated Lancaster Bible, Houghton and Indiana Wesleyan in the span of eight days, battling their way into an automatic bid to NCCAA Nationals. The national tournament in Florida runs from Nov. 28-Dec. 3.
“These guys have stepped it up in these last two weeks. They showed real grit to bounce back from a tough conference season that was plagued by injuries. Today, they showed what they are capable of,” Hotchkin said. “Our guys played with diligence and unity. We are really thankful for the second chance and opportunity to play for a national championship.”
To earn the trip to Florida, Grace had to defeat longtime nemesis IWU on its home field. The Lancers did so in impressive fashion, using goals from Nikola Djordjevic and Damon Binkley to dispatch the Wildcats (11-8-2).
Grace’s offense struggled to get on track in the first half. The Lancers only had two shots and zero corners; fortunately one of their shots found the back of the net.
Binkley created the first goal, beating IWU’s goalkeeper to a loose ball and playing a simple pass to Djordjevic in front of the net in the 40th minute.
Midway into the second half, the action picked up on both ends of the field. IWU had a shot that sailed just above the crossbar, but Djordjevic responded with a near-goal of his own that rolled wide of the net.
Grace grabbed control of the game for good in the 72nd minute. Binkley scored at the 71:34 mark for his fourth goal of the regional tournament.
The Wildcats were largely muted in the second half as Grace’s possession maintained control. IWU had two corner kicks in the last four minutes, but the Wildcats could not muster a shot attempt for the final 15:43 of the contest.
Djordjevic led all players with four shots, and Binkley added three shots.
“I’m pretty sure our fan base outnumbered the IWU fans tonight,” Hotchkin added. “So we are really thankful for their tremendous support on a cold day!”
To see who Grace will play in the national tournament, stay tuned to GCLancers.com.