Grace’s men’s soccer team wrapped up its 2015 campaign with a 1-0 loss to Belhaven at NCCAA Nationals on Wednesday.
The Lancers end the season with a 14-7-3 record, marking the most wins in program history since 1983.
The NCAA Div. II Blazers (14-3-2) won the pool in the winner-take-all match, advancing to the national semifinals.
In the first 25 minutes, Belhaven dominated time on the ball. The Blazers only managed two shots during that time, but they held Grace without an attempt until Damon Binkley’s blocked shot in the 26th minute.
Grace’s offense sputtered for much of the opening half. Only a handful of free kicks provided Grace any opportunities before halftime.
The Lancers’ defense held the Blazers in check, however. Robbie Barnhill came out to make a double save in rapid succession, smothering Belhaven’s best chance in the 42nd minute. The match entered halftime scoreless with the Blazers holding a 5-2 advantage in shots.
Grace found its offensive stride in the early portions of the second half. In the first five minutes, Mitchell Zeilenga had a headed effort at goal, and Dominic Harris had a fastbreak shot that was blocked.
Thomas Tydeman nearly broke through 15 minutes into the half. He fired off a 20-yard shot that whisked a few feet above the crossbar.
Minutes after Tydeman’s miss, Belhaven dealt the fatal blow. On a free kick from the left side of the field, Lucas Talaveira-Befi fired a shot that beat the defensive wall and crashed inside the far post at the 62:30 mark for the game’s only goal.
Grace, needing a win to prolong its season, amped up its offense in pursuit of goals. With 17 minutes to play, Grace had a throw-in near Belhaven’s penalty box. Grace had an appeal for a handball in the penalty box, but the official denied the request much to Grace’s chagrin.
Two minutes later, another throw-in in Belhaven’s territory produced another chance for the Lancers. A loose ball fell to Daniel Smith, but his hard shot at the top of the penalty box was blocked.
The game gained even more intrigue at the end of the match when Belhaven was issued a straight red card, giving the Lancers a 11v10 advantage for the final 4:35. But Grace could only muster one more shot before regulation and fell 1-0 at the final horn.
For the game, Grace outshot Belhaven 8-7 including a 6-2 advantage in the second half.
The loss ends the careers of seniors Kyle Hamlin, Justin Festa, Dylan Andersen, Travis Kirkland and Nakilee Weni. The group had three winning seasons in four years, averaging over 10 wins per season.