Special to the Herald
CLINTON – A day after being named the No. 7 ranked team in the nation, the Ashford University men’s soccer team returned home to the friendly confines of South Campus to take on the Tigers of Olivet Nazarene University.
Ashford scored twice in the first half and netted another goal late in the contest to pull out a 3-1 victory.
The victory improves the Saints to 5-1 overall while Olivet Nazarene falls to 1-2-1.
Although Ashford had an early chance to score within the first two minutes, the match remained scoreless until the 18th minute when junior midfielder Javier Ramirez took a pass from Murilo Ceruli and netted his third goal of the season to give AU an early advantage.
Freshman Daniel Dreier then gave the Saints some breathing room just minutes later with his team-leading seventh goal during the 25th minute. The marker was assisted by Ramirez.
But Olivet Nazarene made things interesting less than a minute later when Robby Gunderson played a ball past AU goalkeeper Patrick Kinsella to send the match into halftime, 2-1.
“Any team in the country would take a 3-1 win over a quality team like Olivet Nazarene,” Saints coach Richard Markham said. “But as a coach, I’m not satisfied with the win. It was a very slow-paced game; they slowed it down and didn’t allow us to get our counters going. We were having trouble finding passes and just had some bad execution. It’s something we need to address.”
The Tigers held a 6-4 advantage in shots in the first half. The Saints turned up the pressure after the break.
Ashford blasted 12 shots at the Olivet net, placing four on goal, and silenced the Tigers before notching their third goal in the 87th minute to win the contest, 3-1. Ceruli was credited with his second goal of the season, on assists from Lucas Almeida and Johannes Langhans.
Kinsella turned away four ONU shot attempts in the winning effort.
The Saints return to the turf at AU South Campus on Sunday, Sept. 15, when the No. 4 Broncos of Hastings College visit Clinton.
“Hastings is a quality team and have been one of the best teams in the country over the last five seasons,” Markham added. “We are a team that’s never been ranked this high, how do we handle it? It’s going to take us some time, and teams are going to come at you. We need to realize we belong and play like that every night.”
First kick for the top-10 matchup is slated for 2 p.m.