In Crowded Standings, MSUB Pushes For 1st With 2 Wins
The Yellowjackets' Ricardo Palomino had a hat trick in the second half against Concordia, leading the team to a 3-2 victory.
The Yellowjackets' Ricardo Palomino had a hat trick in the second half against Concordia, leading the team to a 3-2 victory.

Monday, October 19, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. – In one of the tightest races in the GNAC, Montana State Billings men’s soccer picked up back-to-back wins last week, to earn them the GNAC Red Lion Team of the Week. The Yellowjackets defeated previously-ranked Northwest Nazarene 1-0 on Thursday and grabbed a come-from-behind win 3-2 against Concordia on Saturday.

“It is great recognition from the conference for all the hard work our team has put in this season,” said head coach Alex Balog. “To get some of these rewards is an indication that what we’ve done is working.”

The Yellowjackets entered the week in fourth place with 11 points, two points back of Northwest Nazarene and one point ahead of Concordia. On Thursday, Montana State Billings played a defensive match against NNU with no goals through the first half. In the second stanza, Fernando Perez found the back of the net for the game-winner in the 51st minute, assisted by Julian Toenges. Goalkeeper Tom Lohmann shut out the Crusaders, making three saves.

“(Northwest Nazarene) plays a brand of soccer that I really admire,” said Balog. “We had to adapt to counter that. Individually, they have some outstanding talent.”

The Yellowjackets found themselves in a different positon on Saturday, trailing 2-0 through the first half against Concordia. Ricardo Palomino, the GNAC’s leading goal scorer, then took control of the match. Palomino scored a 50th minute goal to open the half on a free kick and tied the match up with a 77th minute goal after beating three defenders into the box. He didn’t stop there, netting the game-winner and his Division II-leading 16th goal of the season in the 81st minute on a header-assist by Sam Butterworth. With the wins, MSUB moved into second place in the GNAC standings.

Saturday was also the MSUB Kicks Cancer match. The Yellowjackets honored teammate Trevor Wildberger, who passed away after a battle with cancer in August. The team also honored their seven-year old teammate Sebastien Easton, who is in an ongoing battle with cancer. Easton conducted the ceremonial kickoff before the match.

“It was a very emotional afternoon,” said Balog. “We have to thank Concordia for cooperating with us before the match. The win on Saturday was probably the best game of soccer I’ve been involved with in my entire career.”

Palomino has been arguably the most dominant player in the GNAC this season. His 16 goals is double of any other player in the conference. He also leads the GNAC in points (34) and game-winning goals (5), which is also second in Division II. Palomino was named the GNAC Offensive Player of the Week with his second hat trick of the season. As a team, the Yellowjackets are first in the conference in goals (31), points (88) and assists (26) and fourth in goals allowed (17).

The Yellowjackets have won three matches in a row and are in second place with a 7-3-3 overall record, 5-2-2 in the GNAC. They are just three points back of first place Seattle Pacific with five conference matches remaining. Coming up, the Yellowjackets will be on the road at fourth-place Simon Fraser on Thursday and at Western Washington on Saturday. They play Seattle Pacific on Saturday, Oct. 31.