DUNBAR, WI—The Maranatha men’s soccer team played perhaps their best game of the year Tuesday afternoon against the Pioneers of Northland International University, and yet came up just one goal short in overtime penalty shootouts to end their season in heartbreaking fashion.
“We played incredible today,” said Coach Pill after the narrow defeat. “Our preparation was awesome, our team tactics were spot-on, and we maintained intense possession throughout most of the game.”
The Crusaders came right out of the gate incredibly confident, maintaining lengthy possessions throughout the first twenty minutes that were anchored by solid defensive play.
In the twenty-fifth minute, Maranatha’s defense provided a game-altering play, as a Crusader defender on the goal line blocked a shot from inside the eighteen with his chest, keeping the score at 0-0.
Unable to penetrate past Pioneer defender stand-out Jason Lorch (Aurora, CO) and the other defensemen, however, Maranatha’s offense was held scoreless for the entire first half.
The Crusaders found their offensive flow in the second though, thanks to freshman forward Wira Wama (Papua New Guinea), who drilled a shot from 25 yards out at the 55th minute. The rocket was turned away nicely, however, courtesy of a diving save from Pioneer goalkeeper Derrick Harrison (Dunbar, WI).
Just 10 minutes later, Wama was able to dice through Northland’s defense and finish a pass from forward Mitchell Holley (Watertown, WI) to give the Crusaders the 1-0 lead, but the goal was negated as an offsides penalty on Holley was called by the sideline official.
The Crusaders continued to battle, however, and the 66th minute proved to produce pay dirt. After a low shot by sophomore Jeremy Knudsen (Charlotte, NC) that was mishandled by the Pioneer keeper, forward Tim Rogers (Willmar, MN) was able to follow up the ricochet and net his 9th goal of the season to give the Crusaders the 1-0 lead.
And yet, the Pioneers would soon rally to produce some offense of their own. With just ten minutes left in the match, a great entry ball by Darrel Goff (East Lansing, MI) produced a foul by a Maranatha defenseman in the Crusader box, awarding Northland with a penalty kick.
Senior Jason Lorch calmly stepped up to take the kick, and buried it in the left corner to even the match at 1-1.
This deadlock would continue until the end of regulation, and even extend throughout two sudden death, 10 minute overtime periods, with neither team offering any real threat of a goal.
This 2013 NCCAA Regional Semifinal would be decided in a shootout.
After five shooters from each team, the match was still a stalemate at 3-3. For the Crusaders, Tim Rogers, Taylor Pill, and Jackson Miller each found the net with their shots, while Drew DeLozier registered a miss and Wira Wama had his turned away.
The game would continue with sudden death shootouts, and be decided with the first pair of players. Crusader forward Dustin Dolan (Watertown, WI) attempted first, but had his shot blocked by the Pioneer goalkeeper.
Northland senior forward Arren Quezada (Barraguda, Guam) proved to be the hero of the day, as he finished the 4th goal for the Pioneers to give them the 2-1 victory.
“Wow…that was by far the best game that we’ve ever had against Northland,” stated Coach Pill after the 2 hour, 45 minute match. “It’s obviously a bummer to finish that way, but we had an excellent season, perhaps the best that I’ve been a part of here. We have a ton to be thankful for, as well as much to look forward to. It will be difficult to say goodbye to these seniors, but I’m very proud of how they competed and led us all year.”
So, despite losing a 2-1 grind against their conference rivals on a cold, wintery afternoon in Dunbar, WI, the Crusaders ended their season by playing excellent soccer and showing Christ-like, controlled passion in a game filled with multiple pressures.
Maranatha finishes with an overall record of 10-8, and an NCCAA record of 7-3. Wira Wama led the team in goals scored with 13, while Taylor Pill led in assists with 7.
Northland moves on to the NCCAA Regional Championship at Moody on Saturday, November 2nd, with the winner heading to Kissimee, Florida to compete in the National Tournament.