Grace Houser | Clarion

The Men’s Soccer team finished their regular season undefeated after a 1-0 win at Western Illinois on Nov. 4. With their win, they secured the No. 1 seed in next week’s Summit League Tournament, where they begin play on Thursday, Nov. 9.

Senior co-captain Alex Underwood (Winnetka, Ill.) scored in the ninth minute after a pass from redshirt-sophomore Ryan Barlow (Coppell, Texas). Underwood buried his third goal of the season into the bottom left corner for the only goal of the game.

Throughout the first half, Denver played a strong offensive game, outshooting Western Illinois 9-5, putting plenty of pressure on the Western Illinois defense. During the second half, the Pioneers’ defense kept the score at 1-0 despite the 13 shots Western Illinois attempted. Redshirt-junior keeper, Nick Gardner only had to make five saves during the match, making this the Pioneers’ seventh cleansheet of the season, and Gardner’s sixth shutout. 

“This is a great moment in our program. To win a league regular season title five years in a row is a testament to the older guys. I’m not sure how many senior groups can say that they’ve won a conference title in all four seasons,” Head Coach Jamie Franks said following the game. “As we’ve gotten closer to knockout style soccer, my team has continued to improve in each game. Come Thursday, we’ll be fighting for our lives, and we have a lot of experience and victories in these type of games. I’m looking forward to watching this group compete with their Proactive Fighting Football.”

In the six seasons that Franks has been with the program, Denver has finished with double-digit wins. This season, they ended Summit League regular play 5-0-0 and all play 10-6-1. Franks was named head coach in 2015. During these three years, Franks has led the Pioneers to rankings as high as third in the final NSCAA Poll and College Soccer News Poll, program highs.

The Pioneers will begin their quest for another successful postseason when they head to Omaha for the first game in the Summit League Semifinals. They will play Eastern Illinois at 1 p.m. on Nov. 9. The game will be streamed live on Summit League’s website.