After putting together an impressive regular season record of 17-3 and capturing both the MIAC regular season title and the MIAC Playoff Championship, the Gustavus Men’s Soccer Team traveled to Chicago to compete in the NCAA Tournament. After an exciting 3-2 win over Colorado College in the first round, the Gusties fell to North Park University in a penalty shootout in the Round of 32.
The Gusties traveled south from St. Peter last Friday to compete in the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament hosted by North Park University.
After one practice on Friday evening, the Gusties were set to play Colorado College on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers had received an at-large bid after falling to Texas Lutheran in their conference title game and entered the contest with a record of 14-6.
In the opening round, neither team was able to get on the board early in the game.
Then, with roughly 15 minutes left in the first half, Junior Matt Gibbons played a ball downfield to Sophomore Cole Schwartz who slotted a shot just inside the left post to put Gustavus up 1-0.
Just five minutes later, a cross was sent into the box by Senior Joe Brandel and after a failed clearance attempt by the Tiger defense, Junior Scott Heinen took advantage and found the top right corner of the goal to beat the goalkeeper and put the Gusties up 2-0.
With less than a minute left in the first half, the Tigers capitalized on a free kick and brought their deficit back to just one goal going into the break.
Early in the second half, Gibbons created another scoring opportunity for the Gusties. In the 57th minute, he found Senior Cody Billins near the back post off of a corner kick and Billins headed it home to extend the Gustie lead.
The Tigers continued to apply pressure throughout the remainder of the second half and were able to narrow their deficit with 4:45 remaining in the game.
Fortunately, First-year Goalkeeper Wesley Sanders made a few important saves and the Gustie defense held strong to secure the win and advance to the second round.
“I thought the guys did a great job of again executing a game plan. C.C. is a great team. We knew we’d have to be clinical and score goals, because they would create chances, and while we definitely didn’t score the best chances we created, any time you can score three goals in an NCAA game is a pretty cool thing and means we did something right,” Head Coach Tudor Flintham said.
With their win, the Gusties advanced to play the hosts and 2017 National Runner-Ups, North Park University on Sunday.
The contest got off to a fast-paced start, but neither team was able to gain an advantage in the early going.
In the 20th minute, a Viking forward split two Gustie defenders and snuck a shot past Sanders to give North Park a 1-0 advantage.
The two teams played even for the remainder of the half.
The majority of the second half was a gritty and even battle between the teams, but as time wound down, the Gusties applied more and more pressure in an attempt to even the score and keep their season alive.
With less than three minutes to play, Gibbons won a ball on the left side of the field and sent a cross in towards the back post. First-year Otis Anderson won an advantageous position and headed the ball past the Viking goalkeeper to even the score at 1-1.
Anderson’s goal sent the game into overtime, but neither team was able to score in the additional 20 minutes of play. Over this period, the Vikings outshot the Gusties 7-1, but were unable to net the game-winner.
At the end of 110 minutes of play, the Gusties and Vikings were still locked at 1-1, so the game would be decided by a penalty shootout.
The Vikings shot first in the PK’s and were clinical with their accuracy. Their first five players all found corners of the net and Sanders had little opportunity to stop them.
For the Gusties, Gibbons, First-year Max McLaughlin, Junior Trace Dobson, and Anderson all responded with goals of their own.
The tenth player to shoot was Sophomore Cole Scwhartz, who aimed at the right side of the net. The Viking goalkeeper lunged out of the ball’s path but was able to save the shot with his feet and secure the win for North Park.
“At the end, only one team can advance and PKs are cruel. But we’ll celebrate our successes this season and congratulate North Park on what is a very gifted team and coaching staff,” Flintham said.
With his game-tying assist, Gibbons now holds the single-season program record with 17 assists, passing the mark set by Terry Cottingham in 1972.
The Gusties will finish the season with a record of 18-3-1 and will graduate seven seniors while returning a strong core of younger talent.
“We are also immensely proud of these seniors, who in my two years with them have won three MIAC titles and have taken the 2017 National Runner-up right to the edge of the sweet 16 It’s hard to leave a program like Gustavus better than you found it, but I hope they feel joy in knowing they built on our legacy, and we’ll continue to honor theirs,” Flintham said.