Buffs best TW in regular-season finale

By Rebecca Pierson
STAR Correspondent
The heat was on Saturday afternoon, but it wasn't just the weather. It was also the Milligan Buffaloes in their final home game of the season, and their alumni weekend, against the AAC second seed Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs.
The Buffs' 3-1 win now puts them at 11-7-1 for the season, with an ACC record of 4-3-1.
Things started heating up 10 minutes into the first half on a controversial goal by junior Greg Hochstetter off an assist by senior Eric Starr.
Bulldog head coach Richard Northcutt wasn't shy about his feelings on the call when he shouted at an official, "No one who has ever played soccer would call that."
The Buffs' head coach, Marty Shirley, was more sympathetic after the game about the call, and the position the officials are in.
"They work hard," he said. "They are human, and they make mistakes. It is tough when there is not a lot of high soccer in this area. It is hard for the referees to get the games they need to improve on. It is a credit that they are as good as they are. I don't think it was one-sided. They made some mistakes, but they also made mistakes on the other end."
Freshman Caleb Bollman set up junior Ali Mohamed for a goal with 20 minutes left in the half to bring the Buffs ahead at 2-0. The Bulldogs' Todd Ledbetter scored their only goal of the afternoon with 15 minutes left in the half, unassisted.
Starr let the intensity get to him after words were exchanged between he and Tennessee Wesleyan goalkeeper Sigardeson Sigdar. The conversation ended when Starr pushed Sigdar down.
Both teams regained their cool in the second half, with both team's defenses coming up strong. With minutes remaining, Northcutt pulled the Bulldogs' keeper out of the game to have an extra man on the field in an attempt to tie the game up. The Buffs' offense took advantage of the opportunity when senior Brian Okumu nailed a shot from 30-plus yards out to bring the score 3-1.
Buffs keeper Joel Wanyoike had three saves compared to the Bulldogs' Sigdar, who had five saves on the goal.
"We played real smart today," Shirley said. "We had several opportunities that we should have finished, but fortunately it wasn't anything that would come back and haunt us like it did last Wednesday against King. We changed our formation to 4-4-2 this week. After the King match, we felt like we needed more defense for Tennessee Wesleyan. We knew their guys were going to be big and strong up top, so we added another back.
"We set up a bit more defensively, a bit more controlled today, and we didn't take as many chances. So we didn't have that many mistakes either."
The Bulldogs had four shots on goal while the Buffs had eight.
Junior Steven Townley was last week's AAC Player of the Week after three goals and three assists. Yesterday, he took a more low-key approach as sweeper.
"He played two awesome matches up top, came back from that three-game slump and just wanted to change some things up," Shirley said. "Steven normally plays striker and we wanted to give him a shot up there and see what he could do to create some opportunity for us. He did real well.
"Today, we moved him back for security reasons, because he has been playing sweeper for us at the beginning of the year. We knew he would feel comfortable back there."
Since the heartbreaking loss to King College on Wednesday, the team has been getting back to basics and putting the game behind them.
"The King game is over, and we need to move on to the next one," said Shirley. "This [game] was huge because it gives us at least first round home field. On Saturday, we will play either Covenant or King. On Wednesday, Bryan and Tennessee Wesleyan will play each other, so we won't know [for sure] until that game is over exactly who we will play. We know that we will be seeded fourth. That is an improvement from last year. We were seated sixth.
"We will probably give the boys a day off on Monday to get a day of rest. We have six days to prepare for Saturday. We have got some boys who have gotten back in the game this week. The one with the broken arm came back and the guy with the back problem got released to do at least some running around, and he got to play a bit today because he is a senior. We stuck him in there so he could at least be honored.
"If we get a good day's rest, that can get some more boys back in the lineup and we then can have a full load going into the playoffs."
The Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament begins on Nov. 7.
Tennessee Wesleyan 3
Milligan 1
Tennessee Wesleyan broke a 1-1 tie after halftime in the 63rd minute off Summer Hughes' second goal off a penalty kick. To finish off the day, Hughes added another score with an unassisted goal in the 86th minute.
"We played with no rhythm today," said Lady Buffs coach David Dixon. "They beat us to every ball. We can't win if we do that."
Hughes quickly put the Lady Bulldogs on top 1-0, scoring in the third minute of the game. Milligan's Bianca Spoto rallied with an unassisted goal in the 19th minute, evening the score.
Andrea Breece totaled three saves for the Lady Buffs, who finished their regular season with an 8-7 overall record, going 5-3 in the AAC.