A total of 110 minutes of regulation play were not enough to determine a victor in this season’s second battle between the unranked Emory Eagles and the No. 11 University of Chicago Maroons Nov. 18. A 1-1 draw at the close of the second overtime period forced these all-too familiar rivals into a penalty shootout with a spot in the NCAA Division III Tournament semifinals on the line. Chicago proved the beneficiary, edging out a narrow 5-3 win at Chicago’s Stagg Field.
With the win, Chicago advances to the tournament’s semifinals for the second time in program history, their only other appearance in 1996 when the Maroons fell 3-2 to Kenyon College (Ohio). They will meet with hometown rival No. 5 North Park University (Il.) in Greensboro, N.C. This will be yet another rematch for Chicago, who dropped a 1-0 home match to visiting North Park Oct. 18. North Park has not lost since Sept. 4.
The quarterfinal pairing with Chicago was nothing short of poetic, as the Maroons have been the catalyst to the Eagles’ rise and final fall this season. In an Oct. 7 UAA conference game, Emory crushed then-No. 1 Chicago to the tune of a 3-0 win on the Maroons’ home pitch. This was Emory’s first ever win against a No. 1-ranked opponent and legitimized Emory’s place among this season’s soccer elite.
“[Chicago has] a great system and each player knows their role very well,” senior midfielder Christian Meyer said. “Defensively, they are really organized. They aren’t going to foul you for a [penalty kick] or give you any dangerous opportunities. You have to create whatever you are getting.”
Though Chicago returned the favor in penalty kicks Nov. 18, Emory’s quarterfinal loss is, at worst, bittersweet. The defeat caps what has arguably been Emory’s best season in program history. Along with a 15-5-2 season record, the Eagles secured program firsts in the form of a win over a No. 1-ranked opponent and a birth into the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament.
“For the younger guys it has instilled in them that a national championship is a reachable thing,” Meyer said. “It’s not just something you talk about. It’s something that we are definitely close to achieving.”
Emory’s tournament run began Nov. 11 in Lynchburg, Va. Wins over unranked Dickinson College (Pa.) and No. 14 Lynchburg College (Va.) in the first two rounds propelled Emory into the tournament’s Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008 and tied for the furthest tournament run in program history.
This Eagles squad tore through the Sweet 16 barrier Nov. 17 with a 2-1 victory over No. 18 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas). First half goals from senior forward Michael Carragher and Meyer proved just enough to secure a matchup with Chicago in the quarterfinals.
Emory and Chicago had met on Stagg Field a little more than a month prior, and the Eagles ran away with a big win. This match was fated to be a much tighter contest.
“It’s tough to beat any team two times in one year, especially one of the best teams in the country,” Meyer said. “We know each other very well because we played this year, we play the same teams in the conference, and we have a lot of information and scouting on each other.”
Chicago pulled the first punch early, striking Emory in the 10th minute off a header from junior forward Max Lopez.
Though Emory conceded the early goal, the team continued to apply pressure on the Maroons.
“It’s 20 degrees … we are down 1-0 after 5 minutes. It would have been really easy for us to just give up,” Meyer said. “That’s indicative of the character and the strength of the people on our team.”
The score held 1-0 into halftime, but Emory broke through the Chicago defense just three minutes into the second half. A corner kick from senior center midfielder Adam Ferguson found the head of Carragher, who finished to tie the game at one goal apiece.
“[Carragher] made a front post run. … [Chicago was] zonally marking, and he just beat whoever it was right there to the ball and hit it near post, kind of in the upright corner,” Meyer said.
Through the remainder of the second half and the two 10-minute overtime periods, neither team could find the back of the net. In the 20 minutes of overtime, the two sides allowed only two shots, both for Chicago. In total, Chicago outshot Emory 13-5. Emory freshman goalkeeper Cole Gallagher came up big time and time again, with six saves on the day. Chicago freshman goalkeeper Aaron Katsimpalis tallied two saves.
At the conclusion of double overtime, the teams prepared for penalty kicks. Chicago shot first, with senior midfielder Andre Abedian connecting on the first shot to give the Maroons a 1-0 lead. Senior forward Jason McCartney responded in kind to tie the score. In the second round, Lopez delivered Chicago a 2-1 lead, which held after a save from Katsimpalis against Emory junior midfielder Moustafa Khattab. After another Chicago goal, Carragher stepped to the penalty spot and scored to keep the Eagles within reach, 3-2. But Chicago just wouldn’t miss, scoring yet again in the fourth round.
Down 4-2, junior defender Tyler Santee approached the penalty spot with the game hanging in the balance. A blast to the upper right 90 kept Emory alive, the score now 4-3 in favor of Chicago. Sophomore forward Dayo Adeosun took the fifth and final shot for Chicago. Just a goal away from victory, Adeosun snuck a shot past Gallagher, delivering the Maroons a 5-3 victory with a perfect five-for-five performance in penalty kicks.
“For the older guys ending on this note, definitely we would prefer to be still playing in greensboro this weekend for the final four, but I think, going out, making it to the elite eight, finally we fulfilled the potential that we knew the program and our class and the classes below us has,” Meyer said. “It’s kind of bittersweet, but I think we will look back on it over the next few months, the next few years, and be proud of what we accomplished.”
The win improved Chicago’s season record to 19-2-1. They will face North Park in the semifinals Dec. 1. On the opposite side of the bracket, yet another UAA foe, No. 19 Brandeis University (Mass.), will battle No. 9 Messiah College (Pa.) the same day. The winners will compete Dec. 2 in the NCAA DIII Tournament Final.