The Oglethorpe men's soccer team saw their quest for a fourth conference championship in program history come up just short Sunday afternoon at the Oglethorpe Track and Field, as they fell to the visiting Centre Colonels 4-3 in extra time. The result dropped the Stormy Petrels to 14-4 on the season, and they'll now have to wait to see if they earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Championship.
Neither team got much going in the first half, as the teams combined for nine shots and 18 fouls in a chippy opening 45 minutes. However, the action really picked up in the second half, resulting in a riveting back-and-forth contest after the break.
The 18th-ranked and top-seeded Petrels got on the board just after halftime, as senior midfielder Gabe Alvarez played in a cross from the right side and found the head of senior forward Ryan Marcano. The latter put it past Centre goalkeeper Tate Johnson for his 10th goal of the season, giving his team a 1-0 lead in the 46th minute.
The second-seeded Colonels turned the game on its head, though, quickly equalizing in the 49th minute and following up with a go-ahead goal in the 62nd. Suddenly, the Petrels were down a goal with under 30 minutes to play.
The Petrels turned the tables back on Centre at that point. They tied the game on a world-class free kick from Alvarez in the 73rd minute as the Oglethorpe senior perfectly whipped a ball into the upper-left corner of the net from 25 yards out, then they took a lead in the 75th minute when sophomore forward Logan Llano took a feed from fellow sophomore forward Abraham Lopez and finished past Johnson. The Petrels had a 3-2 lead and were just 15 minutes away from winning the championship. In addition, things began to look even worse for Centre, as Colonel defender Michael Vogt was red-carded for his second yellow-card offense of the game in the 76th minute.
Just two minutes later, though, the Colonels won a penalty kick with a Petrel hand ball in the box. Centre's Alexander Garuba, who'd scored the goal to put his team ahead in the 62nd minute, stepped to the penalty spot and tied the game at 3-3 in the 77th.
Both teams had chances to score the game-winner in regulation. Oglethorpe freshman forward James Williams went on a long run into the box in the 86th minute, beating several defenders in the process, but put his shot over the bar. Centre had a chance with less than 10 seconds left, but a header was swept off the line by defender Christian Waegelin.
That sent the game to extra time. The Petrels had a chance in the 93rd minute, but a Marcano shot was blocked, leading to a Centre counterattack. The Colonels played a long ball over the top to Garuba, who ran under it and finished to complete the hat trick and win the championship for his team.
Centre outshot Oglethorpe 11-10 in the second half and 17-15 for the game, including an 8-7 lead in shots on goal. Johnson made four saves to Rodriguez's three for the contest.
Alvarez and senior midfielder Andrew Grodhaus both earned spots on the SAA all-tournament team for their efforts.
The NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Selection Show airs Monday at 1:30 p.m. on NCAA.com. The Petrels will wait to see if they earn one of the 21 available general at-large slots to the tournament field.