Nov. 4, 2017
Western Illinois 0-1 Denver (Underwood 9’)
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MACOMB, Ill. – Senior co-captain Alex Underwood (Winnetka, Ill.) tucked a ninth-minute finish inside the post to lead Denver to an outright Summit League Championship with a 1-0 win over Western Illinois on Saturday afternoon at John MacKenzie Field.
A week ago, Denver clinched at least a share of its fifth-straight Summit League crown with a 2-1 extra time win over Omaha. This Saturday’s victory wrapped-up the No. 1 seed in next week’s Summit League Tournament for the Pioneers, and gave the program the right to host the 2018 Summit League Men’s Soccer Championships.
“I’m really proud of my group to be able to come out here and win 1-0 in a game that had a lot on the line. It shows the character and the leadership that this group has,” head coach Jamie Franks said. “It wasn’t a pretty game, it never is against Western. They put a lot of balls on top of you and make you defend. For the most part we didn’t give them too many good chances.”
Redshirt-sophomore midfielder Ryan Barlow (Coppell, Texas) setup the Denver goal, picking out Underwood, who buried his third goal of the season into the bottom left corner to give the Pioneers an early lead.
Denver outshot the home side 9-5 in the opening 45 minutes and took the lead into the locker room.
The Pioneers defense kept their seventh cleansheet of the season, including redshirt-junior Nick Gardner’s (Marvin, N.C.) sixth of the campaign. Gardner was credited with five saves in the Pioneers 10th victory of the season. Denver has finished with double-digit wins in each of the six seasons that Franks has been with the program (including all three years as the head coach).
“This is a great moment in our program. To win a league regular season title five years in a row is a testament to the older guys. I’m not sure how many senior groups can say that they’ve won a conference title in all four seasons. As we’ve gotten closer to knockout style soccer, my team has continued to improve in each game. Come Thursday we’ll be fighting for our lives, and we have a lot of experience and victories in these type of games. I’m looking forward to watching this group compete with their Proactive Fighting Football.”
UP NEXT: Top-seeded Denver will head to Omaha to take on Eastern Illinois in the first of two Summit League Semifinals at Caniglia Field on Thursday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. MT, and the match will be streamed live on the Summit League's website.
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