Men’s soccer crowned kings of the Horizon League, clinch spot in NCAA tournament

For the first time since 2015, the Golden Grizzlies are crowned the champions of the Men’s Horizon League soccer conference after defeating the Cleveland State Vikings on Saturday.

Immediately coming into the game, the Golden Grizzlies would strike and score within 41 seconds of the opening whistle and go up 1-0. Even with them taking the lead so early on in the game, their focus never waned as they kept pushing the envelope on offense. 

This first goal really rattled the Vikings, as they almost gave another goal to the Grizzlies via friendly fire, forcing the goalie to block a cross that nearly came off of a Viking defender. The Vikings would continue to struggle with moving forward on offense and with stopping the Grizzlies on defense. 

With such an electric start, tensions started flying early out on the field. The referee would get quite the arm workout in by assigning three yellow cards in the first half alone [1 for the Vikings and 2 for the Golden Grizzlies]. 

These cards wouldn’t give pause to the Grizzlies, however, as they continued to give relentless chase to the ball while keeping their opponents off balance. Despite overwhelming both the goalie and his backline for much of the half, cracking the defense earlier on, and having control of the ball, the Grizzlies just could not find a goal during their stretch of dominance. 

In a flip of momentum, the Vikings would start to fight back, repeatedly attacking Finn Jurak and being sent away by the extraordinary goalie each time. In response, the Grizzlies would up their intensity as well, leading to their fouls aplenty on both sides and both team’s shots on target nearly hitting double digits for the half. 

This high-paced play would help the Vikings find their equalizer, as they would score the game-tying goal after trailing in the game for 40 minutes. As quickly as they would give up the lead, the Golden Grizzlies would snatch it back just as fast by scoring off of an own goal from the Vikings defender. 

The hectic first half would end with the Golden Grizzlies on top 2-1, and the second half would kick off just as the first half did. The Grizzlies would storm onto the field, scoring a third goal and setting themselves even farther away from the Vikings. 

While the Grizzlies would keep up their high speed offense shown in the first half, the Vikings would look frazzled in comparison. Frantic, sloppy and unorganized would be the best words to describe the Vikings offensive play in the second half. 

As the 80th minute appeared on the clock, desperation and worry started to seep into the play of the Vikings, as they needed to capture two goals in 10 minutes just to even the game up. Tensions that flared up earlier in the game reached a boiling point by the end, as the Golden Grizzlies started to taunt the Vikings and they started to let their temper get the better of them as the loss became clearer and clearer. 

As the final buzzer sounded, the Golden Grizzlies celebrated the culmination of all their hard work as they were presented with their trophies and set their sights on doing damage in the NCAA tournament.