The Oglethorpe men's soccer team fought tooth and nail Sunday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Championship at Watt Field in Lexington, Virginia, but fell just short in the end. The Stormy Petrels fell 5-4 in a penalty kick shootout to the homestanding Washington and Lee Generals after a game that finished tied 3-3 after 110 minutes of action.
It was a game that featured a hat trick from sophomore forward Gabriel Alvarez, several outstanding saves from senior goalkeeper Luke Whelan, and a gutsy performance from the entire Petrel squad, as they came back from a goal down to tie it three times. It all came down to penalty kicks, however, and after a wild shootout that went to two rounds of sudden death, it was the Generals who finally prevailed.
In the shootout, the Petrels fell behind 1-0 after Whelan led off and had his shot saved by Washington and Lee goalkeeper Gillen Beck. The Petrels answered back, though, when junior forward Ryan Marcano converted and Whelan saved a shot from Dylan Ritch, making it 1-1. Both teams scored in the third round, with junior midfielder Topher Marshall knocking home his shot to make it 2-2, but Washington and Lee went back ahead after the fourth round as sophomore forward Tyler Castor had his shot saved by Beck. That made it 3-2 after four rounds, and meant that the Petrels needed the outcome of the final two kicks to go their way to force sudden death. Whelan did his part, as he made an outstanding save on a shot from Viktor Dolberg. Alvarez stepped up and did the rest, burying his shot to make it 3-3 and extend the shootout. Both teams scored in the sixth round, with junior forward Devon Patterson making it 4-4, but junior forward Rob Bonet had his shot saved in the seventh round after the Generals' Harris Salom made his. That secured the 5-4 shootout win for the Generals.
The game itself featured plenty of momentum swings. Washington and Lee struck first, scoring off a free kick in the 13th minute. The Petrels answered back quickly, though, as Alvarez embarked on a marauding run into the box and was brought down by a General defender, resulting in a penalty kick. Alvarez stepped up himself and buried it past Beck, despite the fact that the Washington and Lee goalkeeper guessed right on the play. That tied the score 1-1 in the 18th minute.
The back and forth continued as Washington and Lee took the lead back in the 28th minute after Oglethorpe sophomore defender Christian Waegelin hit the post with a shot just seconds earlier, but the Petrels quickly equalized with another penalty kick from Alvarez. Midfielder Adam Sole got behind the Washington and Lee defense on a long ball over the top and was taken down by Beck in the penalty area in the 33rd minute. Alvarez stepped up for his third penalty kick goal of the tournament and his fifth of the season. Including the one he took in the shootout, Alvarez finished the season 6-for-6 on penalty kicks.
The game went to the halftime break tied 2-2, but the drama continued in the second half. Washington and Lee went back ahead in the 59th minute, but Alvarez was not finished. He took a lay-off from sophomore midfielder Andrew Grodhaus and rifled a shot from 20 yards out into the upper-right corner of the net, giving Beck no chance to make a stop. The Alvarez rocket tied the score again, this time at 3-3 in the 60th minute. He finished with 10 goals for the season and four for the NCAA tournament, three of them on penalty kicks.
The Petrels put several shots on goal over the final 30 minutes, as Alvarez, senior defender Jordan Locke and Marshall all had chances to score the game-winning goal. Beck made saves on all three attempts, though. He made a sprawling save on Marshall in the 87th minute, then had to scurry to keep it from trickling across the goal line, but was able to keep it out.
Junior midfielder Jon Guy forced a save in the first overtime period, while Whelan made a spectacular save on an effort from Ritch off of a Generals free kick in the 101st minute. Those proved to be the best chances for each team over the course of the extra 20 minutes.
The Petrels finish the season with a 17-2-2 overall record, giving themselves the best winning percentage for a season in their history and tying for the most wins in school history with the 2011 team that also went to the NCAA tournament. This year's squad also brought home the best finish in Oglethorpe soccer history, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Championship for the first time after the 2011 squad lost in the first round. Oglethorpe finished the season on a 15-game unbeaten streak, as Sunday's game officially goes in the book as a tie. Sunday's result snapped the Petrels' 13-game winning streak, but that, too, served as the longest in program history.
"This is obviously a very difficult way for us to end our season," said Oglethorpe head coach Jon Akin. "Losing a shootout to end your season is an incredibly cruel fate. We had some chances to win this game prior to that, though. If you leave it to a shootout, anything can happen. Overall, though, I'm very proud of this team. They advanced farther than any Oglethorpe team has before, and finished with the best record in program history. This group has a lot to be proud of as we look back on this season. I feel awful for our seniors, but all of them had great careers, and they make up the most successful senior class in program history and left the program in a better position than when they entered into it. That's the way we judge classes. We've got an outstanding group of returners with eight of our 11 starters coming back next year along with many strong contributors who'll compete for starting spots. We'll also look to supplement them with another great recruiting class. Our goal will be to get back to the NCAA tournament and advance even farther in 2018."