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Drake holds off SLU in 4-3 thriller

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The Drake men’s soccer team won a nail-biting contest that featured two entirely different sides. The Bulldogs outlasted the Saint Louis Billikens 4-3. Saint Louis is a program with 10 national championships to its name.

Senior Matt Kuhn headed the game-winner home in the 86th minute. Watching the Bulldogs may not be easy for the faint of heart, but they never fail to keep it interesting. The first half of play exhibited a very one-sided effort by the Bulldogs.

Unable to capitalize on multiple chances in the beginning of the first half, Drake struck first with a ball crossed in the box on a corner kick during the 31st minute by senior Michael Noonan. He connected with fellow senior Thomas Ostrander as his header gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Ostrander said he was ecstatic about his goal and he praised Noonan’s ball.

“The first one, Noonan had the ball and beat two guys (to earn the corner kick), which was amazing,” Ostrander said. “But he hit a nice floater to the back post right over their two center backs. (I) sent it to the far post and it went in.”

Senior Hunter Kennedy netted a goal to put the Bulldogs up 2-0 in the 36th minute. This was followed by another goal from Ostrander in the 54th minute. The ball was played in and Ostrander executed a bicycle kick to put the pall in the back of the net. It has been one of the more spectacular goals of the season. Ostrander was as excited as he was surprised about the goal.

“I don’t even know who played me the ball,” he said. “I’ve tried (bicycle kicks) in games this year already. This one just hit my foot, and I looked over my head and it was headed towards the back post. It went in, and it just felt really good to get two goals. It was the first two-goal game of my career.”

The team looked extremely confident going into the half with a 3-0 lead, but that would all change in the 58th minute when Saint Louis scored its first goal of the contest. Kuhn sensed that the pendulum had swung with this first goal by the Billikens.

“That’s the kind of soccer we have been trying to play all year,” Kuhn said. “It just came in the first half then right at the beginning of the second half. We were firing on all cylinders, and then I think we let the game get away from us a bit. Then they got a goal and got the momentum.”

The Bulldogs gave up two more goals, one in the 69th minute and then in the 81st minute. However, it was the late-game heroics of Kuhn who pushed the team on top. Head coach Sean Holmes was happy to get the win but was candid about his team’s play in letting the Billikens back into the game.

“I feel that any time we are on the field, we can score against anyone,” Holmes said. “I’m not as confident that we can hold people off. That becomes apparent every single game.”

The 4-3 result is a win, but Ostrander said he would have enjoyed the first-half score of 3-0. Still, he said he was happy with the result.

“We’ve done that so many times, and we just have to keep our composure,” Ostrander said. “Still, up 3-0, no team should come all the way back, especially the way we were playing. It just felt good to finally close one out.”

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