MARION – Two goals from Damon Binkley secured a 2-1 win for the Grace College men’s soccer team over Houghton on Friday.
The Lancers (9-7-3) will now compete in the NCCAA Regional Finals on Saturday 2:30 p.m. at Indiana Wesleyan. The winner of the finals will receive an automatic bid to the NCCAA National Championships.
Friday’s game featured a heavy dose of possession in a midfield battle. The teams combined to shoot 13 times with Grace holding a 9-4 advantage. The Highlanders (11-5-4) were held to two shots in each half.
Grace’s offense had the better looks in the first half, and the Lancers were awarded with a 1-0 lead.
Midway through the half, Grace won a penalty kick but squandered the chance by shooting wide of goal. A few minutes later, Jon Christensen unleashed a dizzying run towards goal only for his shot to be saved.
Not long afterwards, Grace scored. Binkley and his high school teammate Josiah Osborn combined to open the game’s scoring at the 28th mark.
The next shot of the game was almost an equalizer when Houghton rattled a shot off the crossbar.
The final 12 minutes of the first half saw more yellow cards (3) than shots (2) between the teams as Grace held its 1-0 lead.
The second half started sloppily and with physicality. With 21 minutes remaining in the contest, a Houghton player was issued his second yellow card to reduce the Highlanders to 10 men for the rest of the contest.
Two minutes later, Binkley found his second goal. Daniel Smith set Binkley free with a pass behind Houghton’s defense, and Binkley rounded the goalkeeper and scored to put Grace ahead 2-0.
Santiago Maya and Mitchell Zeilenga both nearly scored again for the Lancers. Maya’s shot was saved just before crossing the goal line, and Zeilenga’s shot went off the crossbar.
Houghton made the scoreline look better by scoring in the final minute, but the damage was done.
Binkley led all players with three shots and three on goal. Maya also tried two shots off the bench.
Kurt Hamlin and Robbie Barnhill combined to earn the win for Grace in goal. Neither player had a save as they were defended well by the backline of Jon Sands, Brayton Taylor, Christensen and Osborn.