By Mike Tupa
ESPN is coming to town.
The national sports network is planning next Tuesday to broadcast live on ESPN3 the men’s soccer match between Oklahoma Wesleyan University and Missouri Valley, at the OKWU field, located on Silver Lake Road.
The match is set for 3 p.m.
“We’re excited about that opportunity,” said OKWU head men’s soccer coach Jamie Peterson.
But, Peterson said the main focus of his team will not be on the television cameras but on the players from Missouri Valley.
This is a top 10 matchup — in Tuesday’s NAIA national ranking, OKWU (9-1-0) remained in the No. 2 spot while Missouri Valley (6-2-3) landed at the No. 9 slot.
This will be the first meeting of the season between the two traditional NAIA powerhouses.
Last season’s meeting in with a 0-0 tie through two overtimes.
Peterson said ESPN contacted OKWU and asked if it would be interested in the broadcast.
“We love the opportunity,” the coach said. “This will be a chance for the guys to showcase what they’re capable of doing.”
OKWU spent much of the 2017 season ranked No. 1 in the nation and advanced to the national semifinals (Final Four) in the NAIA tourney.
The Eagles nearly recaptured the No. 1 spot in this week’s rankings.
William Carey (Miss.) (11-0-0) remained at No. 1 by just one voting point.
William Carey received nine first-place votes and 490 total points in the coaches’ poll; OKWU came in with eight first-place votes and 489 total points.
After dropping their first match this season to Baker (Kan.), 2-1, the Eagles have reeled off nine-straight wins, from Sept. 3-Oct. 5. During that stretch they have outscored opponents, 46-7.
Missouri Valley owns a 6-1-3 mark in its last 10 matches.
The Vikings haven’t featured the same offensive explosives of OKWU, but do boast parsimonious defense.
During their past 10 matches, they have allowed a total of only eight goals.
Next Tuesday’s matchup storyline might well be whether the Vikings can put the wraps on an OKWU offense that has averaged 5.1 goals per game since the first week of September.
The Eagles are definitely on a mission to get back to the nationals and once again surge toward that elusive national title game.
Peterson said his main emphasis for his team now is “the discipline of keeping focus and making sure we continue to improve the mental side of the game — making sure we stay sharp for 90 minutes … and staying mentally focused.”
Stefan Cvetanovic literally has been a scoring machine for the Eagles. He has racked up four hat-tricks in the team’s last five matches and possesses 14 goals for the season.
“He’s on some run,” said Peterson, adding the freshman from Serbia “is showing what he’s capable of. His teammates are setting him up.”
The Eagles remain young.
Peterson starts only three upper classmen; the rest of his first-stringers are sophomores and freshmen.
A few other standouts through the first 10 matches are Stefan Lukic, who leads the nations in assists and team captain Alberto Picchi “who has really taken the reins in helping lead the team,” Peterson said. “He pulls a lot of strings for us and manipulate the game as it goes forth.”
Prior to next Tuesday’s televised match, the Eagles are scheduled for two road matches — tonight against Ottawa (Kan.) and on Saturday at Southwestern (Kan.).