BANGOR, Maine - A defensive duel between the #4 Husson University Eagles and the #5 University of Maine-Farmington Beavers resulted in 110 minutes of men's North Atlantic Conference (NAC) Quarterfinal soccer action on Boucher Field. The 0-0 deadlock came down to a decisive round of penalty kicks where junior Nikoloz Bulashvili stepped up to the challenge subbing in for a goalkeeper's worst nightmare and coming out with the victory as he stopped the Beavers' second penalty kick to secure a 5-3 advantage and help the Eagles advance to the semifinal round of the NAC Championship Tournament.
IN THE ACTION:
It was a quiet game in net for both goalkeepers throughout the first half as neither Jonah Sautter nor Benjamin Powell saw any action until UMF's Andrew Longhurst stepped up to take a free kick midway through the opening period. The senior launched a line drive sailing just over the crossbar from 30 yards out to wake up Powell a lull of action in between the posts.
The Eagles' saw their best scoring opportunity right before halftime, as a cross from the endline by Jarod Bolton was pushed back across the front of the net to an oncoming Cai Pritchard who barely nicked a small touch towards the corner, but was easily stopped short by a UMaine-Farmington defender. Both teams departed off the field at the half without a single shot on goal.
A counterattack in the 78th minute of the match nearly gave the Beavers a leg up as James Pelletier broke through the Husson defense and took on a foot chase to the ball with Husson goalie, Powell, who just barely beat the Beaver midfielder knocking the ball away. Despite a corner kick following the offensive attack, the Eagles managed to escape the threat as Powell swooped out snagging the corner out of the air to regain possession for Husson.
Regulation time ran out and the intensity began to rise on the field. Joao Passoni was granted multiple opportunities on free kicks just outside the box, but Sautter was there to make the stops each time for UMF. The seconds continued to tick off the clock as both teams saw chances on net with the Beavers recording five shots to the Eagles' ten over the ten minute span of the final overtime period. As the final whistle blew both teams ran off the field full of anticipation and excitement with what was next to come.
Substitutions were made on both sides as UMaine-Farmington sent first-year Jacob Statires to guard the net in penalty kicks while Husson carefully selected Bulashvili for the challenge. The Eagles shot first as senior goalkeeper Kyle Townsend approached the penalty mark and carefully passed the ball on the ground into the left corner. Longhurst used his bullet of a shot to even the score at 1-1. Next up, first-year John Ray slotted home a 2-1 advantage. Bulashvili watched carefully as first-year Eric McCallum stepped up to the ball and picked the exact spot the shot went with a diving save to the right to make the only stop in the round. The crowd held their breath as the next four players walked slowly to the penalty mark, seeing a ball ricochet off the crossbar and into the net on the Beavers' third shot by senior Jake Heimlich. Both Eagles' Passoni and Jarod Bolton hit home on their takes followed by a goal from their opponent Silas Mohlar left the score at 4-3 with Husson in the lead. The final shooter for Husson, first-year Jordi Cabau Limens, left the Eagles swarming the field and on their way to the semifinals with a 5-3 victory in penalty kicks over the Beavers.
A few words from head coach Gavin Penny, "Today was all about patience. It was a very dominant display. We have banged on the door time and time again, but their backline was solid and somehow managed to take us to PK's. We have practiced penalties all year and I think it showed in how good our kicks were, and Niko is a beast in the goal. We are all excited to keep our season alive and have another chance next weekend to make it to the championship game. It was a thrilling game today and a fitting end of an era - the last competitive soccer game to be played on the current playing surface on the John P. Boucher Field."
The #5 UMaine-Farmington Beavers conclude their season with a 10-8 overall record while the #4 Husson University Eagles advance to the next round of the NAC Championship Tournament to improve their record to 7-12. Husson will take on #1 Maine Maritime Academy (12-3-1) on the Mariners' field with game time to be determined on Saturday, September 9th.