The University of Charleston men’s soccer team was on its heels with the clock winding down in regulation during its NCAA Division II semifinal match against the University of Indianapolis.
The No. 2 Golden Eagles (19-1-3) were down a goal late in the second half but tied the game with seven minutes remaining in regulation before defeating the No. 3 Greyhounds 1-1 (5-3 penalty kicks) on Thursday at Weidnar field in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“It was a hell of a game,” UC coach Daniel Smee said. “We really didn’t play well in the first half. We knew we could do better at halftime. We came out in the second half and really increased the intensity and effort level.”
The Golden Eagles move on to face No. 1 Cal State Los Angeles at 5 p.m. Saturday for the national championship as they try to win their second title in a row. The game will be broadcast live at NCAA.com.
Alejandro Larrayoz was the lone goal scorer for the Golden Eagles and Kendall Allen scored the goal for UIndy.
Allen broke the scoreless tie in the 30th minute with a goal past UC goalkeeper Marc Torrado. He was assisted by Felix Schuetz. The Greyhounds held serve for the remainder of the first half and a majority of the second half, keeping UC off the board.
Late in the second half, the pitch was tilted in UC’s direction as the Golden Eagles controlled possession. UC almost broke through when Alexis Ledoux sent a screaming shot to the left side of goalkeeper Dimitrios Karousos in the 70th minute, but Karousos made a diving save to keep UC scoreless.
However, in the 83rd minute, Larrayoz sent a shot in, assisted by Gabriel Rodriguez, and tied the game for the Golden Eagles.
“Missing some really good chances as the half went on, you start to get worried that it wasn’t your day,” Smee said. “This group just really doesn’t stop as we’ve learned in the last few weeks and months. To get that goal with seven minutes to go, we all felt there was really only going to be one winner.”
The game remained tied 1-1 through two overtimes and the game went to penalty kicks.
UC subbed Ian de Oliveira Martins in for Torrado — standard for the Golden Eagles in penalty-kick situations — and Martins immediately made a save.
“Marc has been brilliant and we have Ian who is remarkable at saving penalties,” Smee said. “His save at the first penalty was top class. He was actually a little disappointed to not save the next two.”
Later in PKs, Ledoux converted and gave UC the 5-3 victory to send the Golden Eagles to the next round.
“We know if it gets to a penalty shootout we have some very good takers, we have some experienced players that know how to manage the moment,” Smee said.
UC has a tough task at hand against Cal State LA (17-2-3), which is the No. 1 seed in the Final Four. Cal State LA has a formidable defense that has allowed just 13 goals this season and its offense has scored 42 goals.
Moreten Bjoershol and Gonzalo Talavera lead the team with six goals each, but David Elizaga is a player to watch as he has four goals and a team-high 10 assists for 18 points this season.
Alvaro Unanua is Cal Sate LA’s lone goalkeeper. He has allowed 13 goals, saved 89 shots and has 12 clean sheets this season.
“We’ve seen enough of them. We’re going to be watching them today [Friday] as well to be really thorough.” Smee said. “They’re a very good defensive team. Very organized. Then they have the ability to hurt teams in transition and on counterattacks.”