On Friday, Sep. 17, the Rollins men’s soccer team played Saint Leo University in a tough competition that went into overtime.
Saint Leo entered the contest undefeated, ranking number eight in the nation and number one amongst the Southern NCAA Division II teams.
The match began with a wide spread of play, and both teams found time to work on set pieces.
The Saint Leo Lions pushed toward the Tars’ end, but were repelled consistently by the tough Rollins defense players, who deserve recognition for their solid efforts in the match.
As the half continued, the Tars took convincing control of the ball, setting up moves toward the Lions’ goal, but had their efforts shut down and turned into quick returns through their own midfield.
Still, with each short attempt by Saint Leo, the Rollins men kept their heads, controlled the ball, and delivered it back forward with tactical precision. Throughout the first half, Stephen Wright ’11, Bradley Welch ’11, Justin Clark ’11 and Chase Neinken ’11 all found their way into and past the Lions’ defense with excellent ball control, but were unable to get clear shots or unhindered delivery.
Sadly, two particularly well-placed forward passes from the Tars were ruled offside when the men did get in a position to shoot.
Neinken, notably troubled Saint Leo’s defense on more than one occasion and found himself the target of some rough play on the part of Lions’ #18 who was awarded a yellow flag for his trouble.
As the seconds ticked down in the first half, the Tars crossed over a sequence of corners, but could not bury the ball.
The half concluded with the score at 0-0, with Rollins attempting three shots on goal to Saint Leo’s one.
With 55 minutes gone, Rollins revved up the second half with a quick sequence of attempts, just missing a set piece from another Saint Leo’s yellow card. Sixty-three minutes in, defender Matt Bauchle ’12 played a well-timed give and go with Stephen Wright to give the Tars one of the best looks at goal, albeit one that Wright and Bauchle could not convert.
Adam New ’11 and Welch also saw sight of the net in the second half, but were unable to complete their efforts.
Neinken found himself once again the center of the attention of the match as he dove for a header on a ball delivered in by Nick Sowers ’12. Neinken was hauled down again minutes later by the Lions’ #49, and the Tars were once again denied a chance at a nicely placed set piece when the referee missed a blatant Lions’ handball just outside of the 18-yard box.
The second half ended with the score still tied at zero, Rollins increasing their shots on goal to nine, with the Lions finding only three.
Overtime was short lived when Chase Neinken, undoubtedly the man of the match, popped a ball just over the Lions’ goalkeeper, leaving him wondering what happened. The ball bounced into the back of the net and the Tars ran down the pitch celebrating their golden goal to topple the highly ranked, undefeated Lions.
The Tars’ 10 shots on goal to Saint Leo’s three was almost certainly a better indicator of the direction of play than the very low score, but that single goal was well earned by the Rollins men. This win, as tough as it was, is likely to remain one of the sweetest memories of this season.