HOLLAND, Mich. – It's been two seasons since the Bulldogs (1-4, 0-1) last played a nationally-ranked opponent, but the men's soccer team looked destined to take No. 8 Hope College (4-1, 1-0) to overtime Wednesday night until Hope broke a 2-2 deadlock with over three minutes left in regulation play with a pair of late goals to beat Adrian, 4-2, in each team's first conference matchup.
Nick Minshall put the Bulldogs ahead, 2-1, with his second goal of the game and third in the last two games, nearly 18 minutes into the first half. Riley Jackson was able to execute a counter-attack by getting the ball out wide behind the opponent's back four and allowing Minshall to dribble in around Hope's goalkeeper for his third goal of the season.
About six minutes prior to that, the Bulldogs were once again able to capitalize on another counter-attack opportunity. This time, however, Dillon Wilde was able to get the ball behind their back-four. Minshall ran onto it and struck it a first time outside the 18. Minshall led the team in shots with three.
The teams battled for 66-plus minutes at 2-2, before the nationally-ranked Flying Dutchmen broke the long stalemate. Goalkeeper James Ruby kept Adrian in the game with two point blank saves with 33 and 30 minutes left to play. He finished the contest with six saves.
The young Bulldog team showed composure when they went down 1-0 early, but just as in their last game, they responded to tie the game about eight minutes later.
"When the majority of your team is comprised of first-year players, it's often really tough for a first-year player to stay mentally focused for a full 90 minutes, but they came awfully close tonight. As the season wears on and our first-year players gain that experience and mental toughness, I think we'll see a marketable difference down the road. An experienced team, like Hope, with seasoned veterans, have that and that in part is why they're nationally ranked" said head coach Chris LeFevre.
The team will play two non-conference games before returning back to conference play. The Bulldogs travel to Thiel College for two weekend games. The team will play Thiel, Saturday at noon; and Birmingham Southern at 11 a.m. on Sunday.