Buffaloes grind out tourney win over Wesleyan

Photo by Andrew Stauffer/Milligan College
Gabriel Hillman drives with the ball for the Buffs.

  In a first-round match in the Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament, the Milligan College Buffs overcame the Tennessee Wesleyan College Bulldogs on Saturday at Anglin Field for a tight 1-0 win.
  The Bulldogs came out playing tough, with their first player, Daniel Cardenas, being shown the yellow card only over a minute into the game.
  Alex Kimani then had an opening shot in the seventh minute bounce off the top of the goal. Justin Fuller then came behind him three minutes later with a shot that was saved by Bulldog keeper Sigdur Sigurdsson.
  The rest of the first half would go pretty much the same way.
  Bulldog Garrett Owens would also see the yellow and Buff keeper Jordan Fode had to make a pair of saves, but nobody could get a good look at the goal by the half.
  While Milligan maintained possession the majority of the game, Tennessee Wesleyan came out with some tough defense after the half. Their big offensive drive ended when Todd Ledbetter's shot ended in the hands of Fode. The Indians would be forced to stand on the defensive for the rest of the game.
  Ali Mohamed took two shots and Steven Townley almost had a head shot go in when the clock said 19:11.
  Two minutes later, Gabriel Hillman got an assist from David Lilly and a good look from underneath, and banked the ball into the left side of the net for the Buffalo lead. Hillman was sidelines last season with an injury and has slowly been working back into his senior season.
  "I did not want this to be my last game," Hillman said. "I was injured and I haven't played much this year. It has been frustrating, but I have stayed focused. I worked hard this summer and my teammates have helped my through it. They gave me a lot of encouragement, even when I would go in and not do the right thing. I give it all to the team and all to the Lord. We knew we had to win to get on to regionals. Now we have to stay even with the girls team."
  Kyle Wilcox set up a corner kick in the 22nd minute and it bounced off of David Lilly's head and went just over the upper post.
  Hillman took another shot at the 24th minute, but it was stopped by Sigurdsson, and had another shot go just over in the 32nd minute.
  "When the playoffs come, your upperclassmen step up," Milligan head coach Marty Shirley said. "Gabe has not got the minutes that he has in the past from his injury from last year. But he has been working really hard and I have been around the block enough to know that I've got to play the upperclassmen when it comes to playoff time, because they have to carry us through this.
  "I am proud of Gabe. He has been patient all year. He has never complained. He came off the bench and he played beautifully tonight and he had the game of his life. That was a beautiful goal, and all we needed was one to be able to advance forward."
  The Buffs outshot the Bulldogs 14-6, and Fode recorded five save. Sigurdsson recorded three saves in the match.
  "The second half, I think we came off as a different team," Shirley said. "They had opportunities in the first half when Jordan had to make two huge saves, and in the second half he didn't have to do that. We stepped it up a bit and played more like what we can. We look forward to playing King. Even though we beat them in the regular season, on paper we are the underdogs going in because they are the second seed. We are coming in as the third seed. I am sure that King won't look at it that way because they will be looking for a bit different result that last time. They have a great team and a very good coach, and we look forward to a very exciting semi-final match."
  The Buffalo defense shut down the Bulldogs to ensure a continuance in the conference playoffs. They will travel to Stone Mountain, Ga., where the will take on King College on the Covenant campus Friday at 2 p.m. If they win, they will play on to Saturday for the finals.
  "Both times we have played them, both teams battles very hard," Tennessee Wesleyan head coach Richard Northcut said. "It was very hard fought and very fair. It makes you respect your opponent. We battled hard, but sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You want to make sure that you come out and try hard. It makes it a good game to watch I think when both teams are battling and playing hard.
  "We did better at the beginning, being able to hang onto the possession, but then we got tired and couldn't do it. Then there was 15 minutes there where the kept it and that's when the goal came. Then we had to panic. Then we had to blow all chaos to try and score it. We were lucky they didn't score another one."
  Note: Mohamed, Kimani and Townley were named this week to the First Team All-Conference this week while Wilcox and Lilly was named to the Second team. Travis Young and Caleb Bollman were named to the Third team. Four Buffaloes were named to the Academic All-Conference Team: Justin Fuller, Bollman, Mohamed and Stuart Makinson. Townley and Mohamed are also in the running for the Conference Player of the Year. The entire Milligan squad was honored with the Champions of Character award, which is voted upon by the conference coaches.