Sophomore Gabe Christianson found the back of the net with under 15 minutes remaining in regulation as the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville men’s soccer team earned a 1-0 victory over Evansville on Senior Day.
“This was collective team effort on both sides of the ball, and that’s when we’re at our best,” Head Coach Kevin Kalish said following the match. “I felt like our guys were up for this game, and it was a quality performance that led to a quality result.”
Christianson scored his first goal in a Cougar uniform in the 76th minute off an assist from Lewis Ellis, as SIUE (6-8-2, 2-3-0 MVC) secured a place in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, taking place in less than two weeks.
The Purple Aces (10-6-1, 2-3-0 MVC) came into the match as the highest-scoring team in the MVC, but the Cougars shut down the visitors’ attack, outshooting Evansville by a 13-4 margin, while holding a 10-3 advantage in corner kicks.
Senior goalkeeper John Berner, making the final home start of his collegiate career, made one save en route to his fourth shutout of the season.
“There was a lot of significance in this game,” Kalish said. “Not only was it our last home game, but it also had a lot of significance in terms of where we stood in the conference standings. I thought our team responded, and there were a number of quality performances from different guys tonight.”
The match was played a high tempo from the opening whistle, with both teams creating chances in the first half. Berner was called into action within the game’s opening minutes, sprinting off his line to deny Evansville’s Nate Opperman.
SIUE’s Christian Volesky created a couple of chances of his own later in the half, forcing a close-range save from Purple Aces goalkeeper Eric Teppen, before lashing wide of the post shortly thereafter.
The Cougars controlled the majority of the match during the second half, and Christianson gave the hosts the goal they earned.
Ellis swung in a corner kick from the left side, which Volesky met with a header that was turned onto the post. Ellis received the rebounded ball, and slid a low cross across the face of goal where Christianson turned the ball home from a yard out.
After the match, Kalish praised the team’s two seniors, Berner and Joe Sales, who played in the final home game of their SIUE careers.
“I want to thank both John and Joe for what they’ve put into this program during their time here,” Kalish said. “John has been here for five years and is a tremendous student-athlete who represents the program and the university in a first-class way. Joe stepped up tonight when we needed him most and helped us get this result. We’re going to miss those guys after their careers are complete. They’re both fine student-athletes who have represented the program very well.”
SIUE will play its final game of the regular season in a week’s time, when it travels to Springfield, Mo., for a match against Missouri State Saturday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“We’ve been doing a lot of things well, and tonight was a quality team effort,” Kalish added. “This is a result that we can build upon going into Missouri State next weekend.”