ST. JOSEPH — A steady offensive attack and two strong performances in net were enough for St. Joseph's boys soccer team to earn its first conference win of the season on Wednesday night.
Nick Menke and Preston Nichols combined to make eight saves for the Bears, who continued to attack throughout the game in a 2-0 Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference victory over Battle Creek Lakeview at St. Joseph.
With the win, the Bears moved to 3-0 on the season. St. Joseph had won its previous two contests, 4-3 over Edwardsburg on Saturday and 10-2 over Battle Creek Central on Monday.
"It was a pretty good game overall for all of us," St. Joseph coach John Brown said. "We were patient. We attacked when we should attack. It was good, nice for us to have some competition that actually pushes us a little bit."
St. Joseph (1-0 SMAC, 3-0) and Lakeview (0-1, 2-2) played virtually even for the first 15 minutes, with the first shot attempt of the game coming just before the 15-minute mark.
Just over one minute later, the Bears broke the scoreless tie after a 20-yard free kick by Tyler Burnette found the upper right corner of the net.
The Bears had drawn a foul to set up the free-kick opportunity just outside the 18-yard line, and Burnette beat both a wall of Spartan players and Lakeview keeper Dominic Puhalj to give St. Joseph an early lead.
"We work on set plays all the time," Brown said of Burnette's goal. "A lot of goals are scored on set plays. It was a really good hit. That's just an individual effort there."
Menke, a senior, played the first half for the Bears in net, corralling four saves. Nichols, a first-year player for St. Joseph, also had four saves in the second half.
Lakeview's Puhalj finished with seven saves.
Brown said the Bears will likely feature a two-keeper look this season.
"We were fortunate to have Preston come out," Brown said. "He actually played football last year as a freshman. I had my eye on him last year to come out.
"We'll probably switch between the two (this season). They both present great things for us."
St. Joseph got its second goal four minutes into half two.
After a quick change in possession, the Bears had numbers moving forward, and Burnette played a low through ball to Jack Pender, who cut inside and finished low and away to move the score to 2-0.
St. Joseph continued to get shots off in the half, adding five more in the half for a game total of nine. The Bears also had four corner kicks to Lakeview's three.
St. Joseph will play three games this Saturday at the Kalamazoo Hackett Invitational. Brown said he thinks the Bears should be well prepared after a strong start to the season.
"We feel good," he said. "The thing is that it's a process. We've got to be better tomorrow than we are today. That's all we're going to focus is on, is that."
St. Joseph 2, BC Lakeview 0
Goals — Tyler Burnette, Jack Pender.
Assists — Burnette.
Shots on goal — St. Joseph 9, Lakeview 8.
Saves — Nick Menke (SJ) 4, Preston Nichols (SJ) 4, Dominic Puhalj (L) 7.
Halftime — St. Joseph 1-0.
Records — St. Joseph 1-0 SMAC, 3-0; Lakeview 0-1, 2-2.
Contact: bspencer@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSpencer