By Forest Stulting, Sports Editor
After beating East Tennessee State University Nov. 15 in the SoCon tournament championship 1-0 to secure its thirteenth SoCon tournament title, the Paladins men’s soccer team received the SoCon bid for the 2015 NCAA men’s soccer tournament.
With the top 16 seeds receiving a bye in the first round, the Paladins drew a first round match against in-state rival South Carolina Gamecocks for the right to play fifteenth seeded University of California-Santa Barbara in the second round.
The Nov. 19 match saw a packed house at Eugene E. Stone III Stadium in Columbia, S.C. for the second consecutive and tenth overall appearance in the NCAA tournament for the Paladins.
Through the first 23 minutes of play, both teams were able to put pressure on one another, with the Paladins having the early edge in shots at 3-2. But neither team seemed to have the upper hand.
After both teams made substitutions at the 25 minute mark, the Gamecocks controlled the final 20 minutes of the first half, earning two corner kicks and a shot to even the shot chart at 3 apiece. The score remained 0-0 at halftime.
Coming out of the break, the Paladins put immediate pressure on the Gamecocks, launching three shots in the first 10 minutes of the second half. However, the aggressiveness of the Paladins played into the feet of the Gamecocks, allowing South Carolina midfielder Danny Deakin to sprint down the field in the fifty-eighth minute and take a shot that grazed the near post and missed the outstretched hand of senior goalkeeper Sven Lissek.
It took nearly 10 minutes after the goal for the Paladins to put the pressure back on the Gamecocks, when junior attacker Lewis Hawke headed a shot on goal from a corner kick that ended right at the Gamecock keeper. The Paladins would retain possession for the majority of the second half, putting the grunt of its chances on goal in the last few minutes of regulation.
In the ninetieth minute, with 40 seconds remaining in regulation, senior midfielder Tony Santibanez threw the ball deep in Furman’s own territory to senior midfielder Adrian McInnis, who dribbled to midfield and then unleashed a pass to the edge of the left side of the box to sophomore defender Kyle McLagan. After dribbling around his defender, McLagan crossed to Hawke, who then flicked the ball off his right foot and landed it in the back of the net by the far post. The goal would send the game into a golden goal overtime period, with two 10 minute halves to strike first.
The first overtime period saw nine of the 11 shots taken in both overtimes combined, with the Gamecocks leading the overtime shot chart 9-2. Neither team had good enough chances to convert the winning goal, sending the game into a best of five penalty shootout.
The Gamecocks stepped up to the spot first and drained the opening kick, but Furman’s McInnis quickly evened the score at 1-1 as he netted the ball in the upper-right corner of the goal.
The second and third attempts for both teams did not find the back of the net, but the Gamecocks fourth attempt put them ahead 2-1, which sealed the victory as the last two attempts by the Paladins were denied.
In conversation with furmanpaladins.com, Paladins head coach Doug Allison said, “It was a tough game to lose but I am very proud of our team.”
The loss ended the Paladins 2015 season with a record of 8-5-6. Furman will lose seven seniors at the end of this year.