Kervy Robles, Sports Editor
Oklahoma Baptist men’s soccer earned the Great American Conference regular season championship last Saturday night.
It is also the first title for the Bison since head coach Anthony Yousey joined the institution in 2013.
“[Coach] Yousey recruited me three years ago and I am part of the development of the soccer program. The hard work is finally paying off with great results,” senior Vicente Castillo said.
Vicente Castillo, who is also the leading scorer and captain, emphasized the strengths of the team to win the conference.
“I currently have 12 goals in the season but all the credits go to my team. We have demonstrated character through efficiency in attack and our solid defense,” he said.
The Bison claimed first place in the conference with a 5-1 record.
“Before getting into conference games, we faced really tough teams. Those games helped us to fix our mistakes on time,” midfielder Jonathan Martinez said.
“Once [we were] fighting in conference contest, we dominated our opponents beating them with two or three goals of difference. This team has earned some respect based on our superiority in the field,” he said.
OBU men’s soccer has also developed a strong defense and kept a clean sheet in goal.
“In order to achieve a clean sheet, I need a solid defense line. [Freshman] Michael Steward, David Estrada, Matthew [Giudice] and Sam Smith have made a fantastic job for us,” goalkeeper Thomas Ackernecht said.
“In the beginning of the season, we started giving up early goals. We have learned to be consistent in defense and offense as well. I tell them to score as many goals as they can, I will do my part here in the back [goal],” he said.
The consistency of the Bison has placed them No. 6 in the National Christian College Athletic Association ranking.
“Our place in the NCCAA ranking is just a reflection of our work. I think we have not reached the peak of our level yet; [we] still have a lot more to show,” midfielder Pablo Garcia said.
“The advantage is on our side, the GAC tournament will be here at home. We are mentally prepared to win it, this is our revenge from last year,” he said.
The Bison will have the opportunity to participate at the Regionals contest in Colorado together with a possibility to compete at Nationals in Florida.
“Regionals is a very important challenge for us. Other very competitive schools will participate, and it is the perfect thermometer to set goals for Nationals,” midfielder Jesus Andrade said.
“The team is excited about the opportunity of playing Nationals. This experience will be remarkable, not only means to compete against the best schools in the country also because I think we have a great chance to win it,” he said.
Junior and senior players do not only lead this group, the young teammates have also stepped up to play an important role inside the squad.
“All the freshmen including me, have adapted very well to this team. The demand in practice is intense and makes everybody fight for a spot in the start eleven,” midfielder Alejandro Castillo said.
“The senior class is leaving a winning legacy. We, as freshmen, need to follow and make–earning tittles a tradition,” he said.
The Bison face upcoming events with high expectations.
“We should be able to win the GAC tournament. Later, we want to dominate at Regionals and show we are one of the most talented teams on this side of the country,” forward Thiago Dos said.
“We are not afraid to challenge big teams. Our ultimate goal is to win every event we participate, even Nationals,” he said.
Oklahoma Baptist will host the Great American Conference tournament at the OBU Soccer Complex.
The Bison, with a current 11-6-1 record, will face Southern Nazarene University Friday 2 p.m.