Northfield, Minn. – In what was a physically and mentally draining match for both the Gustavus and UW-Platteville men’s soccer teams, it was the Pioneers advancing to the second round the NCAA Tournament after winning the penalty shootout by the score of 3-2 in five rounds.
“A tough slice of luck for the lads today,” commented Head Coach Mike Middleton. “I thought we controlled large swathes of the game, yet were not able to put them to the sword. They were very resolute, and were always a danger on the break.”
Coach Middleton was proud of his squad’s performance and commended the players’ hard work and perseverance. “We needed something to fall for us, and it didn’t quite happen. The performance was very good and they all worked their socks off. Nothing for the lads to hang their heads over, they should be very proud of what they have achieved. This was a team capable of playing deep into the month, but it just wasn’t to be today. They are truly a terrific team and a wonderful group to be around. I’m very proud of them.”
The final scoresheet would reveal an evenly played match on both ends of the pitch. UW-Platteville held a 15-14 advantage in shots, while the two squads each had four corner kick opportunities. The Pioneers committed one more foul (23-21) and were charged with four yellow cards to Gustavus’ one.
It was during the overtime sessions that the teams made aggressive strides to tally the game-winning goal. At the 96:04 mark, Gustavus goalkeeper Brett Ylonen (Lake Elmo, Minn.) came up with a save off a corner kick that was batted around in traffic in front of net. The Pioneers had another look at the game-winner in the 103rd minute when Kyle Hoertner sent a drive at the net from the left wing. The shot sailed wide right and the match went into a second 10 minute overtime session.
Less than one minute into the second overtime, sophomore striker Zach Brown (So., Eau Claire, Wis.), after getting behind the UW-Platteville defense, sent what looked to be the game-winner initially just wide of the net. Both teams would have chances over the remaining minutes of overtime. Mdodje Sarr hit the post in the 118th minute, and David Lilly (So., Maple Grove, Minn.) was turned away less than a minute later by Pioneer goalkeeper Ian Christensen.
After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, the match went into a penalty kick shootout. After facing physical challenges from the UW-Platteville attackers all match, Middleton opted for fresh legs. Alvaro Pinto (So., Edina, Minn.) got the call from and would serve as the keeper in the shootout.
After UW-Platteville opened up with a conversion by Brandon Chmiel, Gustavus’ David Lilly hit the left post and missed. After Pioneer Chris Brown hit the crossbar, the Gusties tied the count at 1-1 after Jason Schwab (Fr., Stillwater, Minn.) buried his shot into the upper right corner. UW-Plattevile took a 2-1 advantage heading into the fourth round after Kyle Hoertner converted and Lucas Thompson (Sr., Sioux Falls, S.D.) was turned away. After Hunter McHahon nailed his shot to put the Pioneers up 3-1, Bryan Bjork (Sr., Stillwater, Minn.) was in a must-convert situation to keep Gustavus alive. The senior delivered, as his shot deflected off Christensen’s hand and into the net, cutting the margin to 3-2.
Facing the pressure of elimination, Alvaro Pinto came up with a sprawling save to his left to allow Gustavus a chance at the tying goal. As big as the Pinto’s save was, Christensen’s was even bigger. The UWP goalkeeper dove to his right to stone Konnor Tranoris (Fr., Des Moines, Iowa) and send the Pioneers to the second round of the NCAA Tournament where they will face Carroll University Sunday afternoon back on Bell Field.
Brett Ylonen made a total of three saves, while his counterpart turned away eight shots. Ylonen finished the season 14-2-1 overall with a .896 save percentage and a 0.41 goals against average. A 2012 All-Conference performer, Ylonen closed out his sophomore year by not allowing a single goal in 888:14 consecutive regulation and overtime minutes. Ylonen’s last allowed goal came on Sept. 29 against Carleton.
“The first team hasn’t conceded a goal for 10 games and we have only lost four games in the last 49,” said an encouraged Middleton. “This group of seniors in particular has been very successful and a great deal of credit is owed to them. Not many teams finish the season not losing, and to be frank it is a bit like being in suspended animation. You just don’t know whether to laugh or cry after making a run such as this.”
Gustavus concludes its 2012 season with an overall record of 15-2-3, while UW-Platteville improves to 14-3-2 with the win.
A large contingency of fans swarmed to Bell Field this afternoon to support the Gustavus men’s soccer team – something that did not go unnoticed by Middleton or the team. “Great support from the families, friends and alumni today. They certainly won the battle when it came to making noise,” he applauded. “The support has been sensational over the season, and particularly for the play-off games. But if nothing else, we would have loved to do it for them.”
A special thanks to Carleton Sports Information for contributing to this release.