Title: Raven soccer scores first-ever HCAC title
Earlier this month, a grown man stood crying on the sidelines. It wasn't out of pain, grief or sorrow, but out of a pure joy that comes from accomplishment. From setting out to complete a task and finally seeing it come to fruition. That man was Scott Fridley, head soccer coach of the men's program at Anderson University. And the tears he shed were shared with the some two-dozen young men wearing a Raven uniform. The reason was the first-ever Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title in men's soccer for AU since the program's inception in 1989. The accomplishment was realized after the Ravens beat the Spartans of Manchester 1-0 in the conference tournament final.
"This is our first (title) and we are going to make the most of it," said Fridley after the game, standing at one end of the field and watching as his team cut portions of the net to keep as mementos. "Nobody expected us to do much at the start of the year, but we had a pretty good October and we surprised some people."
October translated into a 5-2 run on AU's schedule that allowed the Ravens to finish the regular season 13-8 and on a four-game winning streak -- their longest of the season.
And winning the last HCAC championship of the millenium may only be the beginning, as Anderson will lose just two seniors to graduation next spring. Senior Jon Hayhurst played midfield, while senior captain Rayn Bennison tied for the team lead in goals with 11.
"Ryan Bennison did an unbelieveable job this year as our captain," said Fridley. "He had to make some adjustments and score a little more this year, but we asked him to defend their top scorer today and he really shut him down."
Bennison's leadership was echoed by sophomore transfer Bill Hullinger, who scored the game's only goal. "This was really a team effort," said Hullinger of the game and the season. "Our seniors -- Hayhurst and Bennison -- really led us and brought us together."
Hullinger's goal came at 27:02 mark of the first half, when Manchester's Brad Charlton was caught back-peddling on defense after Hullinger took a pass and started on a breakway toward the goal. Charlton allowed Hullkinger to get inside him and, rather than allow him to go one-on-one against the keeper, drug him to the ground to force the penalty shot.
Hullinger, a business major transfer from the University of Michigan, was granted the penalty shot attempt and put it into the top-right portion of the net for what proved to be the game-winning score.
"My job right there is to take the ball in there and get a shot or take the hit," said Hullinger of the play. "I didn't really expect to take the penalty shot, but I got it and placed it just right.
"I was taught in high school to pick a spot for penalty shots and just perfect it. So I've been going high-right since I was a freshman."
Raven goal keeper Chad Frank finished with six saves and his eighth shutout of the season.
Anderson outshot Manchester 17-13, but the Spartans held a decided edge in cornerkicks, 12-3. Fridley's record at Anderson University now stands at 67-63-8 overall after eight years of coaching, 23-13-4 in conference play. Fridley has been associated with the Raven soccer program since it began as a varsity sport in 1989, spending two years in goal and setting record for saves in a game (26) and for a season (154).
Manchester finished the season at 8-11-1.
--Writer Tim Allen is the Sports Editor for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.