GOSHEN, Ind. – It took some early pressure, steadfast defending, and a little bit of luck, but in the end, the result was all that mattered on a perfect night at the Goshen College Soccer Complex.
The Maple Leafs scored a first-half goal and held on until the last second, the very last second, for an upset win over #17 Saint Xavier University Thursday night. The win was Goshen's first over the perennial power from Chicago since 2008 (were 0-3 since).
"It was a good night for soccer and a good win for our program and our institution and I thought the boys worked really hard to get this all important result against a really good Saint Xavier team, one worthy of being number 17 in the country," head coach Tavi Mounsithiraj explained.
Despite being the underdog, the Maple Leafs had the best of the opportunities early. Junior Jacob Yoder had a pair with one trickling just wide and another one-on-one chance being saved with one hand by the Cougars' onrushing keeper AJ Pfatchbacher.
Yoder and Goshen got their breakthrough in the 26th minute, however. Senior Daniel Martin brought down a ball near the edge of the box and cleverly tapped it off to sophomore Caleb Longenecker who set Yoder free.
Again one-on-one with the keeper, Yoder's shot deflected off the keeper and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Goshen lead. It was Yoder's second goal in two games and Longenecker's third assists in three games.
"We were a little bit lucky, but we created our own luck," Mounsithiraj said. "I thought we played really well in the first half on both ends of the field. Of course Saint Xavier was always dangerous with their individual skill which gave us fits all night, but credit our defensive side. They were organized and stable most of the evening."
Both teams ended the first half with six shots, including three on frame. The second half was a much different game, however, with Saint Xavier pushing hard for the equalizer and the Maple Leafs frantically defending to hold on for the result.
The visitors tallied eight shots in the second period, but thanks to a steadfast back line, did not have great looks until the final 15 minutes or so.
"In the second half, I told the boys that Saint Xavier would continue to attack to find the equalizer and they we needed to get back and play team defense," Mounsithiraj continued. "We were on our heels most of the last 45 minutes and there were opportunities here and there, but I was pleased with our defensive team keeping everything in front of them and the rest of the team for getting back and helping out."
As the final seconds were ticking off the clock, a moment came that Goshen College soccer fans will likely never forget. Saint Xavier earned a corner kick and a mass of players converged on the box. A cougar rose up and headed the ball toward goal. The ball soared over lunging Maple Leaf goalie Brian O'Leary hitting the back of the net.
It was the equalizer. Only it wasn't. The final whistle blew before the ball was headed in, giving the Maple Leafs a 1-0 win by mere seconds, if that.
With the win, Goshen improves to 2-1 heading into a showdown with another strong program, Aquinas College, on Saturday. Kick off is slated for 7:00 p.m. at the Goshen College Soccer Complex.
"You know it was really good to win a game like this, but I do feel that we have a lot of room to improve," Mounsithiraj said in closing. "I am proud of our team, how hard all 42 of them have been working. Indeed, this is a team victory that we all deserve to enjoy, but we have another tough one on Saturday and just 48 hours to get ready for it."