A black cloud hung over a night of celebration for the UCA men’s soccer team Nov. 9 during senior night at the Bill Stephens Soccer Complex when UCA clinched its first Sun Belt conference title — their first year in the conference — with a 4-1 win over Howard.
UCA led the entire game behind a big night from junior midfielder Soren Jenson who had three goals in this game.
“I had to do the easy part of just putting it in the back of the net,” Jenson said. “I really want to give credit to the front three and the whole team; they put me in great spots.”
The first half felt close even though UCA held a 2-1 lead throughout most of it.
Howard had good looks but was unable to convert off those looks.
Most of the first half was spent on UCA’s side of the field, but the Bear’s defense held strong and only allowed one goal in the first half.
In the second half, UCA controlled the ball most of the half.
Howard’s goalkeeper, Carlos Caro, had some impressive saves in the second half, but he allowed 4 goals in the game.
With 11:24 left in the second half, UCA was looking to score again. They were deep in Howard’s territory, and UCA got another shot on goal. Caro was able to save it, but the ball bounced away from him and created a scramble for the ball.
After the scramble, the referee quickly stopped the clock and rushed over to a Howard player who was laying on the ground face down.
Sophomore forward Ryan Riddle was the player on the ground and trainers and referees all huddled around him.
The game stopped for 30 minutes as an ambulance was called.
The 403 people in the stadium stayed silent as trainers held Riddle’s neck to make sure he didn’t move it.
He was able to move his legs but remained on the ground until EMTs arrived.
Howard’s players had tears coming down their faces as EMTs attended to Riddle.
They put a neck brace on his neck and put him on a stretcher.
The crowd clapped as he was loaded on the ambulance.
The game did continue after the ambulance left and Jenson scored his third goal of the game, sealing the 4-1 win.
UCA is now the number 1 seed in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
“We’re not here to take part.” Jenson said. “ We’re here to take over.”
This was the last game at the Bill Stephens complex for the seniors, who now look ahead to one more run at a conference title.
“It’s challenging, of course; everybody wants to beat the first team,” senior forward Niklas Brodacki said. “We have the most respect [and] who doesn’t like challenges?”
Brodacki leads the team in goals and has become one of the most recognized goal scorers in UCA history.
“I want to be remembered as a goal scorer,” Brodacki said. “I still had bad games but I still scored goals because at the end of the day, that’s what I do.”
The Bears’ first opponent in the Sun Belt Conference will be determined Nov. 13 in a matchup between Georgia State and Georgia Southern Universities.