Overtime goal sends Grace to semifinals
WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s men’s soccer team added another chapter to a storybook season with a come-from-behind win on Wednesday.
The Lancers trailed 1-0 entering the last five minutes of regulation against Mt. Vernon Nazarene in the Crossroads League Tournament quarterfinals.
But late heroics from Cody Boerema and Nikola Djordjevic gave Grace a thrilling 2-1 double overtime win at 1st Source Bank Field, sending the Lancers to the semifinals of the CL Tournament.
The Lancers (10-4-4) will host Goshen on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the semifinals. The winner will play in the league championship on Nov. 11 with a chance to claim an automatic bid to the NAIA National Championships.
“I’m extremely proud of the way the guys demonstrated resilience tonight. When there’s five minutes left in the game of that significance, you have to have guys on the field that refuse to quit,” said Grace head coach Matt Hotchkin. “The team didn’t quit tonight, and it says a lot about them.”
The first half was played in possession between the two teams as temperatures dropped and rain started almost simultaneously with kickoff.
The Lancers had a larger portion of possession, but Grace struggled to break down MVNU’s organized defense. Grace was unable to connect in its final passes all half and did not record a shot attempt in the first 45 minutes.
The first legitimate chance of the match came 20 minutes into the game. The Cougars (7-11-1) found space in the penalty box for a shot, but Grace’s Kurt Hamlin was there for the save.
MVNU, who outshot Grace 4-0 in the half, broke through in the final minutes of the half. On a free kick deep in Grace’s territory, the Lancers were unable to deal with the curled cross. The Cougars pounced on the loose ball in the penalty box to go ahead 1-0.
The second half saw Grace begin to piece together meaningful attacks. Breno Oliveira had Grace’s first strong look on a free kick. His hard shot was parried away by Goshen’s goalkeeper, and the rebounded effort from Grace went wide.
Ulisses Miranda also had a dangerous opportunity, but his shot was off the mark.
The Lancers tried seven shots in the second half, none more important than Boerema’s attempt. With just over three minutes left in the contest and Grace staring a 1-0 deficit, Boerema saved the day.
Oliveira found Boerema in space on the right side of the penalty box. Boerema cut back to the middle and sliced his shot over the goalkeeper for the equalizer.
Neither team was able to produce a shot in the first overtime session, but fireworks began in the second overtime.
Less than a minute into the second overtime, Gabriel Osti was fouled in the penalty box. On the ensuing penalty kick, Grace’s effort was saved.
But rather than give the Cougars momentum from the failed PK, Grace continued to attack. The Lancers earned corner kicks on back-to-back plays, which resulted in the winning moment.
In the 104th minute, Oliveira sent in a low shot from a corner. His effort was blocked, but the ball fell to Djordjevic who capitalized with the game-winning goal in front of the net.
The Lancers held a 12-7 shot advantage in the contest, including 12-3 after halftime.
Kurt Hamlin picked up the win in goal for Grace, making two saves. He was protected by the backline of Josiah Osborn, Zeb Johansson, Osti and Joshua Coupar as well as Togo Narusawa.
“Mt. Vernon gave us a really good game, and I thought it was well played by both sides,” Hotchkin said. “We are excited to move on in the tournament, and we will do our best to prepare as we look to improve our teamwork and effort. Thanks to all who braved some really cold and rainy conditions to support us tonight!”