St. Peter, Minn. – Thanks to a gutsy come from behind overtime victory over the College of St. Scholastica on a gloomy Saturday afternoon at the Gustie Soccer Field, the Gustavus men’s soccer team moved on to the second of the NCAA Tournament and will now face Westminster College for a chance to advance to the “Sweet Sixteen”.
With the 2-1 win, Gustavus improves to 14-3-1 on the year. St. Scholastica sees its stellar season come an end with a record of 17-3-3.
“I’d have liked it a little more sedate – I need my blood pressure checked now!” said an emotional Head Coach Mike Middleton following Gustavus’s win. “The lads played extremely well pulling one out of the fire today.”
Rookie forward Patrick Roth (Stillwater, Minn.) played hero on Gustavus’s home pitch with the game-winning goal just 1:05 into the first overtime session. Roth’s goal, his third of the season and second game-winner, completed the come-from-behind 2-1 victory.
“What a well-taken goal from Patrick Roth in overtime,” said Middleton about the game-winning goal. “It was a consummate goal-scorers goal, chipping it over the ‘keeper as he ran out to close the striker down. It was an absolutely beautiful ball through from Konnor Tranoris, who served it on a plate for Patrick. Konnor’s been a star in the last month and that ball was a work of art.”
The match went to an overtime session following two key plays in the late stages of the match. The first came at the 79:25 mark when St. Scholastica’s Andrew Jenkins challenged several Gustie defenders near the goal line to the left of the net. Jenkins was taken down by Zach Schmith (Sr., Sioux Falls, Minn.) inside the box and was a awarded a penalty kick for the effort. St. Scholastica Head Coach Barry Chastey decided to go with Joe Watt for the penalty kick and the senior buried then ball inside the right post.
With a 1-0 lead with less than ten minutes remaining in regulation, St. Scholastica packed its field players in the defensive end in an effort to limit Gustavus’s chances at an equalizing goal. After not having any luck penetrating what had been a stingy Saint defensive unit all afternoon, Gustavus got a break and was awarded a corner at the 83:14 mark. David Lilly (Sr., Maple Grove, Minn.) played the corner to the short side of the box and after it was mishandled by the St. Scholastica keeper and knocked around between players from both teams, the ball ended up on the foot of Zach Schmith. The senior buried the loose ball at the 83:21 mark to tie the match at 1-1.
The goal was Schmith’s first of the season, as fellow senior Sean Sendelbach (Sioux Falls, S.D.) completed the Sioux Falls connection with the assist.
“David Lilly’s delivery was precise and the lads created mayhem in their area,” commented Middleton about the equalizer. “Some great determination from Sean Sendelbach, and a poachers finish from Zach Schmith who loves coming up for corners.”
“To come back under that sort of pressure was just terrific – the lads showed true grit and determination to get the job done,” continued Middleton. “It was heart-warming to see us come back and later finish off in overtime. Today’s match was a testament to the mental strength of the lads.”
It was the second time this season that Gustavus came back on an opponent who had scored first of the match. The Gusties are now 2-1-0 when allowing the first goal.
“This was a tough outing and St. Scholastica was clearly up for the match,” complimented Middleton. “I thought we played very well through stages, but they were well-organized and well-coached. At times it was like a game of chess. I was really pleased how we continued to get the ball down and play despite the pressure of the game situation.”
Middleton credits his club’s possession as a key factor in today’s victory. “Even when we went a goal down we stayed patient, kept the ball on the ground, and carved out good opportunities for ourselves.”
After a golden scoring opportunity for St. Scholastica inside the first 15 minutes of match, the rest of the opening half was uneventful with scoring chances coming few and far between. St. Scholastica’s Andrew Jenkins created space for himself at the top left corner of the box and fired a rocket at the net. The shot hit the bottom of the crossbar, fell to the ground in front of the goal, and was eventually cleared off the line at the 14:09 mark.
“St. Scholastica created a great chance early on in the game,” stated Middleton. “Goalkeeper Brett Ylonen pulled off a save that you would not believe. It was Gordon Banks for England in 1970 against Pele and Brazil! That save alone had so many hours of hard training behind it. That was top-class and definitely All-American quality.”
Brett Ylonen (Jr., Lake Elmo, Minn.) made two saves on the way to the victory. He is now 14-3-1 on the year and enters tomorrow with a goals against average of 0.52 and a save percentage of .864. His counterpart, Adam Hewitt, suffered the loss after making a total of six saves.
Gustavus had a slight shots advantage at 9-8 and held the corner kick advantage 7-4.
“All-in-all it was a terrific display, which sees us up and running in post-season,” concluded Middleton. “It was a tough game and exactly what we needed. Now we’re having fun.”
The Gustavus men’s soccer team will now face Westminster College in the second round of the NCAA Tournament tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 p.m. Westminster earned a trip to the second round after defeating Carleton 1-0 in the day’s other first round matchup.