Lancers drop heartbreaker in title game

SPRING ARBOR, Mich. – Grace’s men’s soccer team nearly completed a Cinderella run in the 2020 Crossroads League Tournament.

The Lancers, the sixth seed in the tournament, put themselves in position to win the championship match against Spring Arbor on Saturday. But SAU scored late in regulation and late in the second overtime period to win 2-1.

Grace outshot NAIA No. 12-ranked SAU 17-13 and limited the Cougars to just three shots on goal. But Spring Arbor scored on two of those three on-target shots to sneak away with the win.

The Lancers’ trip to the championship match was anything but easy. Grace had to travel on the road for three straight matches as the No. 6 seed. The Lancers knocked off No. 3 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 3-1 then shocked No. 2 seed Indiana Wesleyan 3-2 in the semifinals.

Despite being the underdog Grace started Saturday’s match with optimism, firing off two shots with a corner kick in the first five minutes.

SAU was severely limited on offense at the beginning; the Cougars did not try a shot until the 15th minute, which was blocked

Seventeen minutes into the game, Jordan Jayapuram and Ulisses Miranda combined on a give-and-go to earn Miranda a shot, but his attempt was deflected above the crossbar.

Grace was clearly the aggressor throughout regulation. The Cougars found their first prolonged attack 20 minutes into the match, but Grace’s defense held firm.

With 15 minutes remaining, Miranda almost generated a goal. The senior swiped the ball away from SAU’s goalkeeper and momentarily had an open net. But a defender from the Cougars backtracked and cleared the ball away before it crossed the goal line.

Four minutes later, Grace thought it scored. Felipe Gruber made a leading pass to Ze Maria Goncalves, who slotted his shot past the goalkeeper into the net. But Goncalves was ruled to be offsides, which disallowed the goal.

Grace and SAU went into halftime knotted at 0-0. The Lancers and Cougars were even 5-5 in shots, but Grace had the majority of goal-scoring opportunities in the half.

Both teams pushed for an early goal in the second half. Five minutes into the half, Miranda tried an open header from eight yards away from goal but missed the goalframe. Not long after, Miranda tried a long shot that was saved.

Grace’s goal-scoring moment came in the 61st minute. Jules Peycelon crossed from the right side of the field. The cross was flicked on by a header from Goncalves, and Miranda volleyed the pass into the back of the net.

The Lancers seemed to own the momentum of the match and kept the ball in SAU’s end of the field.

The Cougars found a lifeline with the game-tying goal late in regulation. SAU scored on a header to tie the score in the 76th minute to electrify the home crowd.

For the final 10 minutes, Grace kept SAU pinned back defensively with wave after wave of attacks.

Gruber did his best to retake the lead with a line drive shot with 13 minutes to play. But SAU’s goalkeeper pawed the ball wide, and the shot bounced off the goalpost.

Gruber again almost scored with nine minutes remaining. He juked past a defender and tried a shot as he ran at the goalkeeper, but his shot sailed high.

Despite nearly constant pressure, SAU’s defense did not allow a winner in regulation as the game went to overtime.

Grace outshot SAU 7-2 in the second half, and the first overtime was more of the same.