The Oglethorpe men's soccer team defeated No. 25 Emory Wednesday night at the Oglethorpe Track and Field, scoring two goals on their crosstown rivals in the second half to secure a 3-1 win. It marked their second victory over a ranked team this season after their triumph over then-No. 19 Washington (Missouri) earlier in October, and improved the Stormy Petrels to 12-2-1 on the season overall.
With the game tied 1-1 at halftime, it was the visiting Eagles who came out and saw the better of play in the opening part of the second half. They outshot Oglethorpe 6-5 in the period, and most of those shots came in the opening 25 minutes of the half. However, the Petrels weathered the storm, and mounted an emphatic answer of their own. They took the lead for the second time in the contest on a beautiful give-and-go play in the 75th minute, as senior midfielder Josh Hoeft took the ball about 30 yards from goal on the right side of the field, passed to junior forward Devon Patterson at the top of the box, then received the ball back as he entered the box and fired a low shot to the left of Emory goalkeeper Cole Gallagher to give Oglethorpe a 2-1 lead with 15 minutes remaining. It was Hoeft's first goal of the season and Patterson's fifth assist.
Emory pushed numbers forward in search of the late equalizer, but wasn't able to get much in the way of a quality scoring chance over the final 15 minutes as the Oglethorpe defense locked down. The Petrels won a free kick in a dangerous spot, right in front of and about 20 yards from goal, in the 86th minute. With the opportunity to put the game away, sophomore forward Gabriel Alvarez did not miss. He fired a perfect free kick over the wall and to the right of Gallagher for his fifth goal of the season, giving Oglethorpe their final 3-1 cushion.
In a game that seemed relatively even for much of the first half, the Petrels were able to strike the opening blow in the 28th minute. They won a free kick to the left of goal, and junior midfielder Topher Marshall delivered a pinpoint ball to the far post. That's where junior midfielder Nash Wagnon ran onto it and smashed it home to give his team a 1-0 lead, tallying his first goal of the season in the process.
Emory had several chances in the first half, too, though, with both teams firing 11 shots over the course of the period. Both goalkeepers were busy in the first half, too. Gallagher was forced to make four stops in the period, while Oglethorpe senior goalkeeper Luke Whelan made a couple of his own.
The Eagles found pay dirt in the 44th minute. With barely a minute remaining in the half, they put pressure on the Oglethorpe net and forced the Petrels into an own goal, tying the score at 1-1 headed into the halftime break.
The game was almost even from the perspective of shots, with Emory firing 17 shots to Oglethorpe's 16. Oglethorpe put seven of their shots on goal, however, while Emory placed just three of theirs on target.
Alvarez led the Petrels with four shots, putting a pair of those on goal. Whelan picked up his 10th victory of the season and now sits at a league-leading 0.52 goals against average.
"Emory's a very good team and for us to beat our second UAA team [the University Athletic Association currently has five teams ranked in the top 25] and our second ranked team is a big statement for us," said Oglethorpe head coach Jon Akin. "We matched their physical intensity and also played our style of soccer, and that was the difference in the game. We suffered a bit of an emotional letdown with the own goal right before half, but for us to weather the storm early in the second half and then take back control of the game was thrilling to see. Now we have to take on a good Berry side on short rest. That will be a tall order, as they've had a full week of rest, but I think our guys are up for it."
The Petrels will celebrate Senior Night against SAA foe Berry Friday at 7 p.m. from the Oglethorpe Track and Field. That game will be big for Oglethorpe for that reason, as well as for the conference title implications that will come with it.
After Centre's victory over Birmingham-Southern Wednesday night, the Petrels sit in first place in the league on 16 points, while the Colonels sit in second place on 14 points. An Oglethorpe win over Berry or anything but a Centre win against Sewanee on Saturday will clinch Oglethorpe's third consecutive outright SAA regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. If the Petrels tie Berry Friday night, they will clinch at least a share of the conference title, but a Centre victory over Sewanee would vault the Colonels into the No. 1 seed via a tiebreaker.