The Emory men’s soccer team defeated the Oglethorpe University Petrels (Ga.) on Wednesday, stretching their win-steak to 10 in a heart-wrenching 2-1 overtime game. The Eagles record now stands at 10-0-1, ranking them No. 6 nationally.
The game, the last to be played prior to the start of the University Athletic Association (UAA) conference play, included myriad accomplishments for this year’s stellar Eagles.
Each side found it difficult to break through the well-coordinated defenses of the other in the intense contest. The Eagles’ defense, headed by juniors Matt Sherr and Carl Credle, repeatedly blocked attempts from the Petrels’ offense.
At the 62nd minute, the Petrels took advantage of an opening on the wing and put themselves forward, relatively late in the game’s regulation time.
Fifteen minutes later, senior midfielder Zachary Rosenberg passed to sophomore midfielder Scott Haley, who tied the score with a shot from 35 yards out.
Throughout the initial 90 minutes, both teams battled for possession and control of the midfield. The attempts by both teams to force their style of play had the effect of making the game equally intense and unpredictable. With 22 fouls committed and four yellow cards given throughout the game, the urgency could be felt both on and off the pitch.
For most of the first half the Eagles were kept away from the Petrels’ box as most of the action occurred within the home half and the center. Rosenberg played effectively on the wing despite extensive pressure from the Petrels’ midfielders.
Early in overtime, a controversial call by official Billy Hale voided an offside goal by senior forward Dylan Price.
As the second half of extra time began, both teams attempted bold counterattacks in the hopes of closing out the game in their favor.
In the 106th minute, junior forward Sebastian Hardington headed a goal following an assist by junior defender Jeff Cochran, which became Hardington’s 6th goal of the season.
Towards the end of the match, Hale drew extensive criticism for his seeming lack of awareness of activities on the pitch. Fans jeered him for voiding Price’s goal as an offside and neglecting to book players for risquÃ© tackles and ambitious checks.
In the aftermath of the game-closing goal, it was announced that Head Coach Sonny Travis earned his 100th win as the head coach of the Eagles. Having lead the Eagles for eight seasons, Travis now boasts a 100-32-10 record, an impressive feat that will supplement his 27-year career which includes time with Centre College (Ky.) and Virginia Wesleyan College.
In a post-game call, Travis was quick to praise the players.
“We have a lot of great players,” he said. “They are tremendous players in reference to the overall talent of the team.”
Throughout the past 11 games, Travis intended to place emphasis on making the attack more effective. When asked if the Oglethorpe match was indicative of the new direction, Travis affirmed:
“I was very pleased with the attack tonight. The players had a lot of good movement with the ball and created a lot of chances.”
Travis also noted that the Oglethorpe goalkeeper Vaughn Moore was the backbone of their defense and that he “kept them alive” and that while the Petrels had “better possession” in the first half, the Eagles’ increased pressure on the opposing defense gave them the upper hand in the second.
Sophomore striker Max Gomas echoed Travis’ sentiment.
“While the [Petrels’ defense] came out with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, they couldn’t close out much from the forwards.”
Gomas praised the strong Emory midfield for feeding the strikers throughout the game effectively.
In the weeks leading up to the game, the team expressed a general increase in morale, Gomas said.
“The guys really wanted to win. Because of last year’s [3-0 loss to Oglethorpe], we needed to come out strong and set the tone and the standard for the season,” he said. “Their defense was good, but ours was much better.”
The Eagles start UAA conference play at Washington University in St. Louis on Sunday, Oct. 5.
– By Stephen Jaber, Contributing Writer