Barbourville, Ky. – It was a double overtime thriller Thursday night as the 11th ranked Bryan College Lions Men’s Soccer team outlasted the Bulldogs of Tennessee Wesleyan 1-0 in Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals action.
The No. 3 seed Bulldogs were the first to get on the board in the opening half, but the No. 2 seed Lions responded with the equalizer when Stephen Ricketts netted his third goal of the season at the 68-minute mark. After a scoreless first overtime period, Bryan made quick work in the second to seal the 2-1 victory when Pablo Idieder sent a game-winning strike into the back of the net only 32 seconds into the start of the second overtime.
The 8th ranked team in the nation and AAC Regular-Season champions this season, Union College, hosted the semis and will host the championship game between them and Bryan on Friday, Nov. 11, with kickoff slated for 2pm.
The Union Bulldogs reached the final game by eliminating No. 4 seed Bluefield College (Va.) earlier in the day with a 1-0 golden goal decision in overtime. The Bulldogs have already hosted the Lions earlier this season, and neither team were able to score after 110 minutes on the pitch. Tomorrow no ties will be allowed, as the better side will be determined by penalty kicks if the teams are leveled after two overtime periods.
The Bulldogs were able to force the Lions into one of their most even-played matches of the season as both teams recorded 13 total shots apiece, and each had six that fell on target. Jonathan Ricketts applied constant pressure to Tennessee Wesleyan with a season-high six shot attempts. Rafael Mentzingen, Stephen Ricketts, and Idieder each notched two shots apiece with Idieder being extremely efficient as both attempts were on target and one came in the form of a game-winning goal. Alex Horton continues to impress for the Lions by acting as an impenetrable wall in the goal, while holding the conference’s top spot in goals against average with .69. Horton secured five saves versus the Bulldogs who are currently receiving votes and have previously ranked in the top-25 this season.
Bryan got off to a slow start by falling behind early 1-0 when Tennessee Wesleyan’s Fernando Carcamo capitalized on a shot only seven and a half minutes into the start of the contest. Stephen Ricketts and Mentzingen each had looks at the goal in the latter end of the opening half, but one sailed wide and the other floated high. Unable to close the one-goal gap, Bryan entered the break trailing 1-0.
As the second half got underway, Bulldog Ben Timms looked to extend their lead but 2016 AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan Dunstan, rejected the shot and kept the difference at one. As tension started to build, so did emotions, resulting in a string of fouls. In the midst of the commotion, an offensive push by Bryan led to a shot attempt. Stephen Ricketts was aware and anticipated the block, which helped him corral the miss and drive the tying goal past Tennessee Wesleyan’s keeper, Nick Croucher, making the score 1-1.
As the final minutes ticked down in the second half, both teams were not surprised as they had been in the same situation before less than two weeks ago when Bryan topped Tennessee Wesleyan 4-3 in overtime.
Jonathan Ricketts and Idieder had two back-to-back shot opportunities to start the first overtime period, but Ricketts’ shot traveled wide and Croucher saved Idieder’s. The Bulldogs countered by dealing a shot that was saved by Horton, but Tennessee Wesleyan kept the fast tempo, which resulted in two corner kicks and a missed shot by Carcamo as the first overtime came to a close.
Bryan Head Coach, Drew Courtney, and the Lions collaborated in the three short minutes between overtime periods and returned to the field determined to end the game before heading to a shootout, and that’s exactly what they did. It only took 32 short seconds for Idieder to make a move amongst the Bulldog defenders and slot the game-winner into the goal, lifting the Lions to a 2-1 victory and advancing them to the AAC Tourney Final.
“I thought we were pretty fortunate to get the win tonight,” said Courtney. “We did not play particularly well. Despite our performance, the guys showed a lot of will in the way they grinded it out. Tennessee Wesleyan is a good side, and we are thankful to be moving on to the finals.”
After last year’s tourney finale where Union downed Bryan, the Lions look to answer in this year’s rematch.
For more on the tournament, visit the tournament page.
The 2016 AAC Men’s Soccer Tournament championship match begins at 2 p.m. in Barbourville, Ky. To watch online, click here. (Free to watch.)
For tournament and live stats, click here.
Follow the Bryan Lions Men’s Soccer team on Twitter @BCLionsMSoc.