By: Evan Pinchot
The Penn State Beaver men's soccer team took on Penn State Hazelton in their first playoff game this season. Beaver finished in second place in the PSUAC regular season standings, giving them a first round bye in this year's playoffs where they hope to defend and maintain their status as PSUAC champions. The winner of this semi-final game between two very well matched teams will go on to play in this year's PSUAC championsip.
The game started off as a very intense, very physical match between two determined teams. The field conditions were a problem early on as some players were sliding or falling on the field, causing the Beaver team to start off with a sloppy tone of play. As the first half went on and the players began to adjust, Beaver started to pull together some good scoring chances that they just didn't capitalize on. Finally, in the 21st minute, Beaver's Anthony Voss scored the game's first goal on an assist by Shelton Hilliard, and Beaver took the 1-0 lead. This goal gave Beaver a lot of momentum and the team wouldn't let it go to waste as once again they scored, this time in the 25th minute off of the foot of Logan Ridgley. Now up 2-0 Beaver started to play like the game was in their hands, and just as the team started getting careless Hazelton was able to score a goal in the 35th minute to cut Beaver's momentum and their lead in half. This 2-1 score would last until the end of the first half, as both teams went in to halftime looking to get fired up to finish this game off in the second half.
Aas the second half began it seemed like neither team held the momentum it needed to take control of the game. However, just a minute after the start of the second half, Hazelton was able to score a goal off of some sloppy play by Beaver that would tie this game up with a score of 2-2. This seemed to take a lot of life out of a Beaver team that seemed so certain of their grasp on this game. The next 20 minutes of play showed a Beaver team that was just all-around frustrated with how the game was going. In the 63rd minute Hazelton would end up scoring another goal off of what was considered by the Beaver sideline as a missed call, and would lead to a yellow card for the Beaver coach. However, instead of this hurting Beaver's morale, it seemed to spark a rage in them that did equal parts of good and bad. The Beaver team, who had been playing one of its most physical games all year, began to play even more physical which lead to two more cards in this half. At the same time, this physical play lead to Beaver's golden oppourtunity in the half. Freshman Zach Petey scored on a great assist by fellow Freshman Shelton Hilliard bringing the score to 3-3, and helping the momentum to swing back in Beaver's favor. While the team continued to play hard, they felt that calls were not goung their way and in the 83rd minute one of those calls gave Hazelton an oppourtunity at a penalty kick that they scored on, giving them a 4-3 lead that seemed like it would be the final nail in the coffin to Beaver's season. But, just a little over a minute taking the lead, Hazelton lost focus and Beaver's Romaine Thompson took the game into his own hands, driving the ball down the field and tying this game up once again, sending the two teams into overtime with a score of 4-4.
The teams would end up playing two, 10 minute overtime periods in which neither team could muster up a goal. The physical play and arguements over calls would continue in these periods and it seemed like both teams were getting more fed up with each other with each passing minute. In the 100th minute of the game, Beaver's Senior Captain, Jonathan Pogozelec was given a red card for a slide tackle that looked to be given as a result of the escalating degree of physical play by both teams, rather than this one tackle. Without their vocal leader on the field Beaver seemed unorganzied and angry, which seemd to carry over into their shootout after the two overtime periods. Beaver ended up losing in this shootout, 3 goals to none, as the team couldn't manage to get a single shot past Hazelton's goalkeeper, effectively ending their season in a heartbreaking loss.
Beaver's loss to Hazelton turned out to be the team's final game this season. The team played well overall, even though they became more and more sloppy as the game wore on they were resilient. The team was lead in their final game by the efforts of Freshman Shelton Hilliard, who played as a sparkplug for the team helping to assist on two goals, and Freshman Romaine Thompson, who was able to manufacture the goal that sent the game into overtime late in the second half. Beaver finishes this season with a 10-8-1 overall record.