MEN’S SOCCER: Tops split two at home, await conference gauntlet

Danny Schoenbaechler

Left without the help of their defensive leader, the Hilltoppers battled back from a halftime deficit to come away with a 4-2 win Sunday at Western’s soccer complex.

Despite playing without junior sweeper Ron Plute, the men’s soccer team came back from down 2-1 at the half against Lipscomb (1-8-1).

Junior midfielder David Babula put away the equalizer in the 59th minute after freshman Ritchie Mupfudze flicked a Scott DeGaris throw-in across the box.

The game remained deadlocked until freshman forward Jason Dugas put away his fourth goal of the season off a feed from Babula.

“I think David Babula played great,” Western coach David Holmes said. “He came in and played great in the middle.”

Sophomore forward Edis Kavozovic added his second career goal in the 89th minute to seal the win – a refresher after Saturday’s disappointing loss.

Western was without Plute Sunday because he hyper-extended his knee Saturday in a 4-0 loss to Memphis.

No time table has been set for his return.

“It shouldn’t be anything too serious,” Plute said. “I think I’ll be ready either this weekend or next weekend.”

In his absence, Western (6-3-1) dropped DeGaris back from his normal stopper position. DeGaris shared the sweeper duties with freshman Brian Kline who made his first career start.

“Ron is a true sweeper, and Scotty is a true stopper,” Holmes said. “But I thought he played well, and I think Brian Kline came in and played well in his first start.”

Holmes also experimented with his midfield, moving usual interior midfielders Mupfudze and freshman Jacob Isenhour to the outside, for much of the second half.

“We’re still feeling things around,” Holmes said. “We’re still awfully young. The nice thing about this team is that we have some depth.”

The Toppers will now turn their attention to the Missouri Valley Conference schedule.

Eastern Illinois will come to Bowling Green on Friday night.

After that, Western hits a stretch of games that will likely determine the Toppers’ chances at a postseason berth. Four of Western’s next five games will be against ranked opponents.

Western will host No. 12 Bradley on Sunday.

“We’ve still got a lot to learn before we get into the conference,” senior captain Ben Buerger said.

They’ll have to learn fast.

Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]