(MSUB Athletics release)
BISMARCK, N.D. – Pushing its unbeaten streak to three games, the Montana State University Billings men’s soccer team topped Oklahoma Baptist University 2-1 on Thursday at the MDU Resources Community Bowl at the University of Mary Marauder Invite.
Ignacio Crespo and Christian Thode each scored in the first half for the Yellowjackets, who withstood a late barrage of shots by OBU in the second to collect the victory. The Yellowjackets move to 2-3-1 on the season while Oklahoma Baptist fell to 1-5 and has lost five straight matches.
“We played a really good first half, creating a lot of chances and making the ball move around pretty well,” commented MSUB head coach Alex Balog. “In the second half we need to give Oklahoma Baptist a lot of credit. We created some good chances again in the second, but didn’t get on the scoreboard. That allowed them to get back into the game late on.”
The ‘Jackets out-shot the Bison 13-5 in the opening 45 minutes, and had 11 shots on target by halftime. But despite playing down a man after a red card in the 31st minute, OBU rallied for 12 shots in the second half and kept MSUB on its heels. Alejandro Castillo scored the lone goal for the Bison, and MSUB held on down the stretch to make the 2-1 result count.
An early, frantic moment inside the OBU goal box nearly wound up with the ball in the back of the net, but the Bison somehow managed to get defenders in front of a flurry of close-range shots by the ‘Jackets just after kickoff.
MSUB kept pressure on early, winning multiple free kicks in the attacking third in the opening 20 minutes of play. OBU defended well however, with the back line rising to the challenge and clearing the multiple crosses by set-piece specialist Guillaume Kremer.
The Bison earned a dangerous free-kick chance of their own midway through the first, but MSUB goalkeeper Ludvig Rhodin handled a shot that curled under the wall with ease.
MSUB’s first goal started with a strong run by Luca Battistotti up the left side of the field, and a pass to Kremer in the middle of the pitch. The senior captain curled a well-weighted ball over the top to Dana Kowachek, who beat a defender and passed to a wide-open Crespo for the finish from six yards out.
Kowacheck nearly doubled the lead two minutes later, but his strong, right-footed shot from the top of the box was corralled by OBU keeper Parker Lawter.
Just before halftime, Thode made the score 2-0 after receiving a pass from Kremer from the right side. Getting his momentum behind the ball at the top of the box, Thode fired a left-footed strike into the upper corner of the net past the outstretched arms of Lawter.
Rhodin’s first stressful challenge of the day came early in the second half, when he had to sprint off his line and slide to block an open look by OBU’s Dominic Gibson. It was a sign of what was to come over the final 45 minutes, as Rhodin wound up making seven saves to help his team earn the win.
A long attempt by Sean Grilley gave the ‘Jackets a scare with 17 minutes left to play, but Rhodin leapt backwards and got a hand to it to knock the ball off the crossbar and away from trouble. An ensuing corner kick became a wild scramble in the box, during which Rhodin made another stop on a shot from point-blank range. The Yellowjackets countered with a breakaway on the other end, and this time it was Lawter who came off his line to deny Kowachek from within the box.
Rhodin’s seventh save of the day came in the 82nd minute, when he scurried to his left to tip away a free-kick strike by Jesus Andrade. Castillo’s finish followed in the 86th minute, when he punched a loose ball into the back of the net from inside the six-yard box.
OBU had a final chance to equalize with two minutes left, but a 20-yard free-kick shot by Andrade curled over the crossbar.
Battistotti, Samuele Folla, and Bryan Maxwell each played a solid 90 minutes on the back line for the ‘Jackets, while Kremer played the entire match in the midfield.
THE BUZZ: Folla was selected as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 1-0 all-time against Oklahoma Baptist…the ‘Jackets matched their season high with 13 shots on goal in the match…the goal was the first of Thode’s career…Crespo’s goal was his second of the season and the third of his career…Kremer notched his 13th career assist, obtaining sole possession of No. 7 in MSUB history in that category.
AHEAD: The ‘Jackets face the University of Mary in their second game of the week, coming up on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Central/2 p.m. Mountain time