Another PK loss brings heartbreak to #23 Men’s Soccer

Captains lose 4-3 in PK shootout in the second round of the NCAA tournament

It was a chilly and windy weekend for soccer at Jennings Family Stadium for the first and second round of the NCAA tournament. Despite the weather forcing the four teams to change from Captains Field to Jennings Family Stadium, there were three tight games played over the weekend. In the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Captains of Christopher Newport faced off against the Eagles of Eastern University, and the Roanoke College Maroons played the Swarthmore College Garnets. 

The home team for the weekend kicked off the action Saturday. Because of the high winds that made long ball plays difficult, both teams remained locked in a defensive battle for the majority of the contest. It was not uncommon for goal kicks to drop suddenly to the ground in the face of the gusts that swept through the stadium. 

The midfield was the center of attention for the majority of the match, with possession battles won and lost by each team, flipping the field every five minutes of play. Despite several good runs made by each team in the first half, neither side was able to beat the last defender to earn any points. The Eagles managed to get only two shots on target during the first 45 minutes, while the Captains were only able to get one. 

During the second half of the game, the Captains were able to take advantage of the wind. Ten minutes into the half, Keeper #0 Anthony Hitchcock’s kick went straight into a strong headwind, and the ball dropped dead around twenty yards in front of his own goal. Luckily #7 Justin Wilson saw the opportunity and beat his defender to win the ball and quickly slammed a shot past Hitchcock to put the Captains up 1-0. 

The goal was just what the Captains needed to create pressure on the game. The Eagles grew increasingly desperate for deep through balls as the game wore down, but the defense of the Captains stood strong, not allowing a single shot on target for the remainder of the game. The Eagles’ defense did the best they could, turning aside a few great opportunities by the Captains on counterattacks, but it would not prove enough to win the game.

 Frustrated by a lack of progress against the tight Captain’s defense, the Eagles earned two yellow cards within three minutes of each other with around 15 minutes of play left in the game. The Captains also earned two yellows of their own in the contest, one in each half. 

In the second of the two first round games of the day, featuring Roanoke College and Swarthmore college, the weather turned even colder. With the setting of the sun, the temperature dropped another ten degrees, and the wind did not slow down at all during the match. The players on the field battled through the conditions and multiple leg cramps to deliver an intense game of soccer. 

Tensions were high in Jennings Family Stadium as the game could not be decided in regulation, and the final minutes became chippy, with players taking risky challenges and earning foul after foul. Although the game ended 2-2, an additional twenty minutes of play were not enough to settle it, resulting in a penalty kick shootout for the right to play in the next game against Christopher Newport. 

Swarthmore Goalie #0 Max Kral was a hero in the shootout, making two fantastic dives to keep the Roanoke shooters down. On the offensive side of the ball, Swarthmore was able to make all four of their attempts to win the shootout 4-2 and earn the right to play the Captains the following day. 

Sunday’s weather was much nicer in comparison to the brutal conditions of Saturday. Although the wind was still present, it did not reach the gusts that were constant the night before. 

The Captains’ defense showed once again why it is one of the premier units in the nation, allowing just three shots on target throughout the whole contest. Swarthmore did their best to test this defense, with multiple dangerous opportunities in the Captain’s defensive third. 

Although the scoresheet did not reflect it in shots, the Garnet’s attack was swift and able to capitalize on small mistakes by the Captain’s.

On the other side of the field, Kral for Swarthmore again showed off his athletics, turning away five shots on target throughout the contest, including an impressive dive to prevent the Captains from scoring early in the game. #29 Will Collins and Wilson combined for nine shots, with three on target, but Kral was able to hold strong. 

A defensive battle can be frustrating for the players on the field, and this was reflected in the play. Both teams engaged in small moments of chatter, and the teams combined for 46 fouls throughout the game. In addition to the five yellow cards picked up the night before, Swarthmore added another five to their name during this contest, and Collins picked up a yellow as well for the Captains. 

Both defenses remained stout,  however, keeping the score 0-0 at the end of regulation. Offensive opportunities were limited by the Captains in overtime, but Swarthmore was unable to make much of their possession either. #27 Justin Piercy saved the game for the Captains in the second overtime by preventing a potential score from #2 Ben Lau. 110 minutes were not enough to break the tie, and the game went to a penalty shootout again. 

Despite a history of tragedy in penalty shootouts for the Captains, this one initially looked great for them. #36 Cory Hogge made the first attempt for Christopher Newport, and Piercy blocked the first shot by Lau. The referees ruled that Piercy jumped off his line early, however, and Lau was able to retake his shot, which he made. 

Although #31 Derek Cook missed his shot, Piercy made another great save against #11 Woojin Shin to keep the score 1-1. Collins put his shot away, juking Kral neatly to put the Captains up, 2-1, but #5 Trevor Homstad wasted no time evening the score up. 

Wilson missed with his penalty attempt, and #14 Connor Gill, who made the game-winning PK attempt the previous night, had no problem sliding a shot past Piercy to give the Garnets their first lead of the shootout. 

#2 Harry Whittleton kept the Captains in it and brought the tally to 3-3, but #21 Jason Meuth was able to seal the deal for Swarthmore, tricking Piercy into diving the wrong way for a 4-3 win for Swarthmore. 

Although the Captains did not advance as far into the NCAA tournament as they would have wished, their team still enjoyed much success compared to the previous two years. Coach Justin Chezem ends his first season as head coach with a winning record (14-2-5) and won his first NCAA game. 

Graduating seniors Piercy, Cook and #30 Khari Jones led an oppressive defensive unit that allowed just 12 goals all season, and the offense, led by Sophomore #25 Lincoln Kickbush and Junior Justin Wilson, will return next year to continue their impressive efforts.

~Matthew Scherger, Editor-in-Chief~

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