Special to the Herald
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — For the first time in school history, an Ashford University team has knocked off a No. 1-ranked opponent.
Less than 24 hours after taking down fifth-ranked Auburn-Montgomery, the No. 15 Saints men's soccer team edged the NAIA's top-ranked team in the Blazers of Belhaven University 2-1 on Saturday night.
"We came down here for two wins, and I thought for the first time that I've been at Ashford that we could play with anyone," Saints coach Richard Markham said. "I think our guys were super ecstatic with the result. You know going into it that they're the national champions and that you're going to have to play your very best. You don't get many of these chances."
Belhaven scored early, but the Saints notched two goals within four minutes of each other and locked up the defense to hold off a late charge from the defending NAIA champions. Lucas Almeida scored his third goal of the season in the 18th minute to tie it and was immediately followed by sophomore Tim Krautheim's second marker of the year at the 21st-minute mark.
Javier Ramirez assisted Krautheim on the game-winner, his first of the young season.
The Saints held off an onslaught of Belhaven attempts at the net as the Blazers (1-1-1) outshot AU 15-9, including a 5-1 clip in the second half. Senior goalkeeper Patrick Kinsella turned away four of the five shots he faced to push the Saints to 2-1.
"We went with what we knew worked tonight after seeing the combination of players and positions that worked well last night," Markham continued. "The effort we gave was great, and I thought we executed and were very disciplined tonight."
Friday night, the Saints knocked off No. 5 Auburn University-Montgomery at the Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex.
The win came after Ashford lost its season-opener to Baker (Kan.).
"We looked out of sync last week, and were really still in preseason mode," Markham said. "Baker really exposed our weaknesses, and we spent all of last week correcting our mistakes from that match. I thought our starters played well, and we we're the better team against AUM tonight, looked very dangerous."
Wellendorf, Germany freshman Daniel Dreier tallied two goals in his first action of the season, while Almeida and Krautheim each netted markers for the Saints.
Ashford saw its lead double quickly in the 16th minute when Auburn Montgomery put the ball in its own net, but the Warhawks slashed the AU advantage in half with a 25th minute goal from midfielder Christian Holthaus.
Auburn Montgomery scored again before the halftime break to make it a 2-2 match after the first 45 minutes of play.
The contest remained deadlocked at 2-2 until the 70th minute, when Dreier broke through with the first of his two goals, and the first of three AU goals in eight minutes as the Saints rolled to a 5-2 victory.
"I honestly think this is the most talented team we've had at AU, but it's going to take some time to get our style together," Markham said. "Our combinations worked well tonight and it was great to see us regain our composure after losing a 2-0 advantage. I thought we played very, very well."