The undefeated record that carried the Bryant & Stratton College Bobcats soccer team to a number two national ranking came to an end in double overtime at the hands of Cleary University.
While the loss didn’t bring the Bobcats’ season to an end, it created an uphill climb to lock up another berth in the USCAA National Championship.
Bryant & Stratton carried play throughout the game, outshooting Cleary 9-3 in the first half before doubling their opponents in shots in the second half while chasing the lead.
Despite the disparity in possession and shots, Cleary took the lead in the 61st minute as Hassan Mursal scored on an unassisted effort against the run of play. The deficit opened the door for an early exit from the tournament for the Bobcats as an unblemished record was a near requirement to advance. Romaine Williamson would answer just over 15 minutes later, leveling the score and giving the Bobcats an opportunity to remain in control of their destiny for the remainder of pool play.
The score would remain tied at the end of 90 minutes, leading to Ben Karr’s winning tally off a corner kick in the 104th minute. Karr’s goal and Marc Hodges stellar play in goal, eight saves on nine shots on target, put Cleary in the driver’s seat in pool B. The loss left the Bobcats in need of a convincing win against University of Maine-Fort Kent on Friday and then help from the Bengals against a rested Cleary squad on Saturday. The Bobcats only path to the finals would be on goal differential in the event of a three-way tie in the pool, a path that would be difficult to navigate.
But navigate it they did. Cleary would open the scoring in their match with UMFK on Saturday, but the Bengals would go on to score four-straight, including three within a span of 15 minutes in the first half. The 4-3 win gave the Bobcats the goal differential they needed after dispatching UMFK the day before.
BSC piled up five goals on the Bengals, leaving no doubt after a disappointing first game of the tournament. Daniel Bonehill opened the scoring and just one minute after UMFK tied the game, Connor McGoldrick broke the tie for good.
Jon Stublla, Milan Jakoviljevic and Uros Momic added goals in the second half. The 5-1 win gave the Bobcats a plus-three goal differential and punched their ticket to the National Championship against number-one ranked Florida National just 48 hours after it looked as if they were out of contention.