Grace’s men’s soccer team opened up the 2015 NCCAA National Championships with a 2-2 tie against Chowan (N.C.) on Tuesday.
All four goals were scored in the first half, resulting in a tense but scoreless finale to the match. The draw puts the Lancers (14-6-3) into a win-or-go-home scenario on Wednesday. Grace needs a victory against Belhaven to win the pool and advance to the national semifinals.
“The guys played well tonight, and I thought we would get the win based on the quality and the amount of chances we had on goal,” said Grace head coach Matt Hotchkin. “The guys are frustrated with the result, but we are just going to focus on what is next.”
Grace got off to a fast start against the NCAA Div. II Hawks (11-7-5). Damon Binkley broke free on the left side of the field 70 seconds into the match. He sliced his shot along the ground which rolled inches wide of the far post.
In the 15th minute, Grace got on the scoreboard. Dylan Andersen launched a throw-in from the right side. His toss cleared the first row of potential heads and fell inside the six-yard box to Nakilee Weni, and Weni converted the short-range shot for the game’s first goal.
Chowan responded with an equalizer in the 28th minute. After gaining an advantage on the right side of the field, Ben Chapman finished a cross in front of goal.
Less than three minutes later, the Hawks seized a 2-1 lead by scoring on a counterattack.
Four minutes before halftime, Grace struck back to tie the score. Hector Torres sent in a corner kick, and Dominic Harris outjumped the nearby defenders to head in his shot. The match went into halftime tied 2-2.
Within the first three minutes of the second half, the Lancers had three legitimate shots at goal that were denied. Thomas Tydeman fired a low blast that was saved in the first minute, and Binkley had a shot go into the side netting. Shortly after Binkley’s shot, Weni nearly scored again. He fooled his defender and found space to unload a low shot that beat the goalkeeper but clanged off the goalpost.
Grace continued to dominate offensive chances in the second half, outshooting Chowan 9-4. The Lancers had two shots on goal saved, and another breakaway from Tydeman that went high. Kyle Hamlin had a close-range shot miss, and Binkley nearly won the game with the final kick of regulation, but his shot was off-target.
Grace continued to have the better looks in overtime, holding a 5-2 advantage in shots over the two overtime periods. Binkley had the best chance for either team in the overtimes, dragging his shot just wide of goal in the second overtime.
“I thought the team played unified and also exemplified who we want to be as men. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get another goal, but we will just try to make up for that tomorrow,” Hotchkin said. “Physical and mental recovery will be important as Belhaven has had an extra day to rest. The guys can do this, and I believe they are up to the task.”
For the match, Grace had 18 shots and seven corner kicks compared to 14 shots and six corners for Chowan.
The Lancers’ match with Belhaven with start at 7 p.m. in Kissimmee, Fla.