WASECA — The Bluejay boys soccer team defeated the Loyola Crusaders 4-1 in a conference matchup on Friday night in Waseca.

The boys played away at first-place St. Peter on Thursday where they tied them 1-1 in overtime. The boys took advantage of their opportunity to claim the Big South conference title after handily defeating the Crusaders. Winning the conference is Waseca’s fourth in the soccer programs 13-year history.

“I’m so proud of this group for their hard work and effort all season. Winning a conference championship was amazing after losing our first two games in conference and three of four overall but we didn’t get down, recommitted ourselves and continued to work hard and it paid off,” coach Terry Nafe said.

The Bluejay began the game slow but picked things up and were able to net their first goal with under right 13 minutes left on the board. Christian Arreguin got the ball after a pass from midfielder Brandon Lopez and then sent a ball to senior Alex Gallegos. Gallegos was able to cut left and right around defenders and then put in a goal past the charging Loyola goalkeeper.

The Bluejays began the second half sluggishly and with just under 10 minutes gone in the second half Mankato Loyola winger Derrick Vivas kicked a low cross toward the Waseca goal. The ball deflected off a Bluejay defender’s leg and hit the back of the net to tie the game at one apiece.

The boys energy intensified following this goal and three minutes following the equalizer goal senior captain Jacob Hulscher got a pass from JP Swanson and quickly got past two Mankato Loyola defenders around midfield. Hulscher kept his foot on the gas and cut left around a third defender then right around a fourth defender. He got himself in the Mankato Loyola penalty area and was fouled by defender as he tried knocking a shot toward the goal. Hulscher stayed poised and converted the penalty kick to put Waseca up 2-1.

Waseca netted a third goal with just under 10 minutes left in the game. Senior midfielder Jay Lewer headed a loose ball in the direction of Gallegos who passed the ball to Arreguin. He passed the ball immediately to Lopez who launched an 18-yard shot into the upper right hand of the goal to extend the lead further.

The last goal came when Hulscher took a pass near midfield and slotted a pass to Gallegos near the goal. Gallegos charged toward the goal, beat a defender and passed to Antonio Esparza about 10 yards away from the goal. Esparza hit a one-timer that beat the goalkeeper to put the finishing touches on Waseca’s win.

“Today our senior leadership really showed. We definitely showed effects of a hard, long game the night before but Alex’s goal in the first half on a very strong effort picked us up and got us started. After conceding an own goal, Jacob Hulscher made a great determined play to earning the penalty then we had great efforts by Brandon Lopez, Alex Gallegos and Antonio Esparza to put the game way,” Nafe said.

Waseca finished the regular season 9-5-1 overall and took first place in the Big South conference with an 8-3-1 record. The boys earned the no. 4 seed out of 16 teams in the section 2A playoffs. The Bluejays have earned byes through the first two rounds and will host a home quarterfinal on Saturday at noon.

Reach Sports reporter Shafin Khan at 507-835-4283.

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