Lancers topple IWU to reach championship
MARION, Ind. – Grace’s men’s soccer team continued its upset trend, taking down second-seed Indiana Wesleyan 3-2 in the semifinals of the Crossroads League Tournament.
Ze Maria Goncalves was the player of the match with two goals, and Ulisses Miranda scored the eventual game winner in the 53rd minute.
For the game Grace held an impressive 23-9 advantage in shot attempts while taking 12 shots on goal.
With the win, Grace will play in the tournament championship on Saturday. The Lancers (5-3-2) will travel to No. 12 Spring Arbor on Saturday. The winner of the tournament receives an automatic bid to the NAIA National Championships, which will be held in the spring.
The match started evenly with each team trying a shot in the first five minutes. But as the half wore on, Grace’s offense grew more and more dangerous.
In the 24th minute, Grace took the lead for good. Flavio Cruz found Jonny Mora in space along the left sideline. Mora timed his cross to find Goncalves in stride, who tucked his left-footed shot inside the goalpost.
Goncalves continued to threaten. In the 29th minute he broke free, but his shot struck the goalpost.
Two minutes after that, he nearly scored on a fastbreak. His first shot was saved, and the rebounded shot was cleared off the goal line by an IWU defender.
Goncalves did not have to wait long for his second goal. In the 34th minute, the striker again beat IWU’s offside trap. He cleanly converted the 1v1 with the Wildcat goalkeeper to put the Lancers ahead 2-0.
Goncalves also nearly scored on a free kick with six minutes remaining in the half. His low shot was pushed wide by IWU’s goalkeeper.
Grace’s defense was sharp until a momentary lapse in focus. IWU (5-2-4) pounced on a desperate attack with one minute left in the half, scoring to chop the Lancers’ lead down to 2-1 by halftime.
Grace held a dominant 11-5 edge in shot attempts. Goncalves (7 shots) tried more shots than the Wildcats by himself before halftime.
The Lancers refused to play defensively and continued to attack creatively in search of goals. Grace outshot IWU even more in the second half (12 to 4).
The Lancers’ tactics provided another goal for Grace, which proved to be a crucial one. In the 53rd minute Mora passed to Jordan Jayapuram, who headed the ball behind himself to Ulisses Miranda.
Miranda cleverly juked a defender, then smashed his shot into the net.
IWU scored against the run of play just five minutes later. The Wildcats played a long ball into the box, which Grace failed to clear. IWU’s direct attack provided a second goal and kept the pressure on the Lancers.
Incredibly, the Wildcats’ goal was the only shot attempt that IWU was able to generate over the first 32 minutes of the second half.
IWU tried to build an assault in the closing minutes in pursuit of an equalizer. But Grace’s defense proved up to the task.
The Wildcats shot four times after halftime with two of those being on target.
Goncalves recorded nine shots with six on goal, and Miranda shot five times with three on goal.
Saturday’s championship bout at Spring Arbor is a rematch of the 2017 Crossroads League Tournament championship, which Grace won 4-3 in overtime.