MISHAWAKA, Ind. – The Goshen College men's soccer team saw an early lead slip away as they drew with host Bethel College 2-2 late Tuesday night.
Delayed due to bus issues on the short drive to Mishawaka, the Maple Leafs did not let a late start get to them. They warmed up in the parking lot of a fire station and finished the drive on vans from Bethel and even loaded on a fire truck to complete the trip.
With game time kicked back 30 minutes, Goshen started hot, striking twice in the first half to build a 2-0 lead.
"I thought we played as well as we could through all the distractions and were able to get an early lead," head coach Tavi Mounsithiraj said. "We were playing with confidence right off the start and were able to buckle down and play good defense in the first half."
Junior Joel Pepala opened the scoring in the 28th minute when Mark Baker fired a ball into the box. The ball somehow found Pepala, who calmly pushed it into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead. In the 42nd minute, Pepala struck the post with another effort, but was there for the rebound, sending Goshen to a 2-0 lead.
The hosts Pilots had an immediate answer, though, scoring less than 30 seconds later. Bethel out shot the Leafs 9-6 in the first period, but behind the pair of Pepala strikes, the Leafs took a 2-1 lead into the halftime intermission.
"In the second half with a 2-1 lead, we kept encouraging the boys to keep playing hard and that this is a must-win for us," Mounsithiraj continued before admitting that they were playing against the odds after losing both goalkeeper Brian O'Leary and center back Josh Van Allen to injuries. "It forced us to reorganize our defensive back and Bethel was able to take advantage of a quick throw in, a cross into the box, and a header for the equalizer."
The header came from Blake Bauman who scored his second of the night for Bethel in the 61st minute. Nearly 50 more minutes were played, but neither side was able to get a game-winner. Pepala nearly ended it for Goshen, again striking the woodwork late in regulation.
For Bethel, it was their third tie in Crossroads League play (2-3-3). Goshen, meanwhile, is now 1-5-2 in league play (6-8-2 overall) and will need a win in their regular-season finale Saturday against Taylor - plus a Huntington loss or tie - to qualify for the Crossroads League Tournament.
"I thought this was a good effort for us as a team and playing at Bethel, this is the first time as a coach that we have not lost the game in Mishawaka," Mounsithiraj added. "We are now looking forward to playing Taylor for our regular season finale."