This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writer Daniel Wright.
It took 18 minutes of overtime, but the men’s soccer team is headed back to the A-10 championship.
The No. 2 seed Colonials secured a spot in the conference final after a 2-1 victory Friday night against No. 5 seed La Salle. GW will face the No. 6 seed Xavier Sunday in the championship game, a rematch of an October meeting between the two teams that the Musketeers won 2-0.
“The team is very high right now,” head coach George Lidster said. “We’re very tired, but they’re very up.”
The Colonials got out to an early lead Friday night in St. Louis with a goal from senior Yoni Berhanu in the 17th minute. Playing a pass from fellow senior Jake Davis, who was sidelined much of the season due to injury, Berhanu was able to slip the ball past the La Salle keeper for his 11th goal of the season.
“[La Salle] started well,” Lidster said. “They controlled play for the first five or six minutes of the game. We had a good spell for 20 minutes, and the last 15 minutes they put pressure back on us and scored a goal.”
La Salle evened the score with three minutes to play in the first half when a header by the Explorers snuck past the GW defense. The goal was only the second score ceded by the Colonials defense in six matches. Junior goalkeeper Brendan Lafferty posted four saves in the first half for GW, as the Explorers owned a 7-6 shot advantage. Neither side was able to break the 1-1 deadlock in the second half in what Lidster referred to as “backwards and forwards half”, and La Salle continued to outshoot the Colonials 10-3.
As overtime play began, GW took control offensively, outshooting La Salle 8-1 in extra time. In the 108th minute, freshman Farhan Khan placed a golden goal past the La Salle defense on a light pass in the box from fellow freshman Joe Holleran, ending the match and securing GW a spot in the championship game. Had neither side scored, the teams would have entered a penalty kick shootout to determine the winner, something Lidster wanted to avoid.
“It was massive to get the goal,” Lidster said. “Their goal keeper is very, very, good, and going into a penalty shoot is a crapshoot.”
Going into the championship match Sunday, the Colonials will be even more “makeshift” as sophomore forward Tyler Ranalli may be kept out with injury. The Colonials are already shorthanded up front, as junior forward Seth Rudolph, who played 10 minutes in Friday’s game, is doubtful for Sunday. Despite the injuries, GW will look to get the best of Xavier in their second matchup of the season.
“It gives us a chance to redeem ourselves,” Lidster said. “We’re going to have to do the same thing they did to us and keep possession. They can’t play around us, we have to control the game.”