The ETSU men’s soccer team was triumphant over the No. 1-seeded UNCG in the SoCon semifinals on Friday.
The match went into double overtime and came down to penalty kicks to determine the victor. Chase Clack scored the decisive penalty kick to win it for the Bucs, and Johnny Sutherland defended the goal as keeper against UNCG’s brutal offensive.
Coach Bo Oshoniyi spoke of the Bucs’ potential to win the Southern Conference championship, which was held on Sunday. Oshoniyi seemed confident in the ability of his team and its ability to succeed.
“I think one of the biggest things that got us here was mentality,” Oshoniyi said. “That’s something we’ve preached the second half of this season. The boys came in with a great mentality, and that causes good things to happen, and if you’re fortunate, the bounces will start to go your way.”
It can be difficult to keep a level head coming off a victory like the one the Bucs achieved in the Southern Conference semi-finals.
James Smith, the tying scorer for ETSU, sent a shot past UNCG’s goalkeeper to tie up the match. This set ETSU up for penalty kicks, which Sutherland says they have been practicing a fair amount. Smith said he hoped to come out to the next game with the team’s energy levels a little bit higher.
“We started the game really well, and we brought a lot of energy into the first 15 or 20 minutes of the game,” Smith said. “We had a really good intensity. Then, we just kind of seemed to drop off, and energy levels dropped when they got their first goal.”
“At halftime, we knew we could deliver something because we proved that in the first twenty minutes,” Smith added. “That’s what we have to do next game; we need belief in the team and the team mentality. That’s what got us that goal.”
The Bucs wouldn’t have gotten that far if not for the outstanding performance of Sutherland in goal. ETSU pushed out more shots on goal than UNCG, with the count post match reading 15-9.
Sutherland had four saves, while Jon Milligan of UNCG had five.
The second half drew to a close while the Bucs and the Spartans prepared to go head-to-head in overtime for their fifth straight overtime match against each other.
After a brief intermission, the players lined up and stepped into the box one by one to face off against the opposing team’s keeper. Sutherland demonstrated ETSU’s practicing of penalty kicks to great effect by deflecting or snagging just one more shot than UNCG’s Milligan.
“You know, I was really ready for it,” Sutherland said. “I had a lot of faith in the boys, and we’ve been working on penalty kicks the past two weeks. We’ve been working hard in training and making sure we perform in PK’s, as well.”
This much was apparent as he dove for a number of shots, reading where they would be before they were actually there.
Tension mounted as the teams were neck-and-neck in penalty kicks. As Clack scored the last goal, the fans erupted, and the Buccaneer soccer team stormed the field brimming with adrenaline and victory.
The Bucs faced off against Furman University on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Summers-Taylor Stadium. The winner of the match will go on to compete in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament.
The Bucs won their last match against Furman in the regular season.
Editor’s Note: ETSU fell to Furman 1-0 Sunday in the SoCon Championship. More information will be available in the Nov. 19 edition.