USAFA, Colo. – Freshman Ryan Ward and senior Brian Klazura scored and freshman goalie Jake Schenk had a career-high 12 saves to lead the Air Force men’s soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Houston Baptist Thursday in the first round of the 2013 WAC Tournament at Cadet Soccer Stadium. The Falcons advance to the semifinals and will play top-seeded Seattle Univ., on Friday at 3 p.m.
Klazura scored the game-winner on a penalty kick with 3:33 remaining in regulation time after being hauled down in the box by HBU’s George Kelley, resulting in a red card. Houston Baptist goalie Kevin Suarez dove to his left but Klazura placed his shot behind him for his second goal of the season.
After a scoreless first half that saw HBU outshoot Air Force 10-2, the Falcons thought they had taken a 1-0 lead in the 61st minute when freshman Blake Elder gathered the ball after having his shot blocked and fired a rocket past Suarez. However, after a lengthy discussion between the referee and assistant referee, offsides was called on Air Force. Two minutes later, Air Force junior Matt Payne had a shot that got behind Suarez but Sebastian Henke swept the ball off the goal line for the save.
Ward finally put the Falcons on the board in the 66th minute when Suarez cleared the ball from the top of box right to Ward, who took a couple of dribbles and sent a shot that bounced once before going into the empty net. It was Ward’s team-leading fourth goal of the season.
“Ryan’s composure on that goal was brilliant,” said Air Force head coach Doug Hill. “He realized he had some time and took full advantage of it. That was a tremendous way for our team to come back after the goal was called back.”
The Huskies battled back and peppered Schenk with shot after shot, including a flurry of four shots on goal in an eight-second span in the 71st minute. Patrick Toh, who led all players with eight shots, had three of the shots and Gustavo Alvarado had the other and Schenk saved all four of them to hold the 1-0 lead.
Schenk made the save of the game in the 79th minute as Toh was all alone behind the AFA defense, but could not get his point-blank shot past Schenk. HBU’s persistence finally paid off, however, in the 80th minute when Kristopher Tyrpak took a crossing pass from Ricky-Paul Mupier and placed a header past Schenk from right in front of the net.
Schenk recovered and made another tough save just seconds before Klazura broke free behind the Husky defense and was pulled down for the PK. Schenk then made two more saves in the final three minutes to preserve the victory.
“Jake was nothing short of outstanding today,” said Hill. “The way to win a championship is with a championship keeper and he is playing like one right now.”
Klazura and Payne led the Falcons with four shots apiece. In addition to Toh’s eight shots, Walter Kromholz had five and Tyrpak had four as the Huskies held a 28-12 advantage in total shots and 13-3 in shots on goal.
“Despite the number of shots they took, our defense marked their scorers very well,” said Hill. “Caleb Downey was excellent in organizing the defense all game. We need to rest for tomorrow’s game but I hope we can rely on our depth and resiliency against Seattle.”