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Sexton's strike lifts Foresters over Indiana Tech

GOAL: Freshman Caleb Sexton strikes a free kick that turned into the only goal of the game as Huntington topped Indiana Tech 1–0 on Wednesday.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

Freshman Caleb Sexton’s goal proved to be the difference for the Huntington University men’s soccer team on Wednesday, as the Foresters picked up a 1–0 non-conference win over Indiana Tech at King Stadium.

The victory improved Huntington’s season record to 2–1–1.

Sexton generated the first good scoring chance of the contest in the 12th minute, stealing the ball away from a Warrior before blasting a shot on the net from outside the top of the box. But, Indiana Tech’s goalkeeper, Ivan Safranic, was up to the task to keep the game scoreless.

The Warriors had their first quality chance of the day in the 34th minute, but their bid to open the scoring sailed just wide of the left post.

With much of the action being in the middle of the field in the first half, the game entered halftime waiting for a goal to be scored.

Sophomore Eric Ocock nearly opened the scoring in the 50th minute, but his high quality opportunity was turned aside with a diving save by Safranic to keep the game knotted at 0–0.

But, the Foresters would not be denied, as Sexton finally broke through in the 51st minute on a free kick from about 30 yards out. Sexton struck the ball well, which seemed to catch Safranic by surprise, as the ball trickled into the goal following a misplay by Safranic, giving Huntington a 1–0 lead and Sexton the first goal of his collegiate career.

“Whenever you have Caleb 25 (or) 30 (yards) in, he’s one that’s pretty gifted in how he can strike the ball,” said head coach Russ Lawson. “And, it’s usually not straight. It’s usually bending (or) knuckling. So, for us to not only capitalize on that (was good), but we had guys crashing on the play, too. That’s one that if the ball is at his feet, typically good things are going to happen.”

Indiana Tech responded following the goal with the next two good chances, but a diving stop by junior goalkeeper Gabe Greenfield kept the first attempt out of the goal in the 57th minute before the Warriors booted away a golden chance over the top left corner of the net in the 64th minute, keeping the score at 1–0 in favor of the Foresters.

Sexton almost doubled the Huntington lead in the 66th minute on a beautiful cross from junior Valentin De Coninck, but Sexton just missed getting his head on the ball to redirect it into the goal.

Greenfield stood tall on Indiana Tech’s final quality chance of the game, shutting down a bid from the left side in the 70th minute to preserve the Foresters’ lead.

Junior Jake Erlandson came close to extending Huntington’s lead in the 89th minute, but his header could not find the back of the net off a free kick from Sexton.

But, as the final seconds ticked off the clock, Sexton’s tally in the 51st minute proved to be all the Foresters needed to earn a 1–0 decision.

“I thought from our last game, which was a week ago against Madonna, I felt like our mentality offensively, and especially in the attacking third, was better,” Lawson said. “I felt like we looked to get at them, on the flanks or balls into the dangerous area into our target and then multiple runs off of them. I felt like that was an improvement. It’s definitely a process that’s taken a little longer than we like offensively, but definitely a couple of steps forward in that attacking third today.”

In all, Huntington fired eight shots, with only three making it on goal. Sexton led the Foresters with four shots.

Indiana Tech mustered 14 shots with six on goal. Greenfield turned away three of those shots for his second shutout of the season.

“I thought (our defense) was organized and I thought it was pretty tight,” Lawson said. “I felt like we didn’t switch off with regards to them getting runs in behind unmarked. … They had some weapons up top and out on the flank that we definitely had to take away and I felt we did that.”

Lawson hopes his team can shore up their possessions in order to limit opportunities for the opponent moving forward, particularly in the middle third of the field.

The Foresters will return to the pitch on Saturday for a road matchup against the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Game time is set for 3 p.m.