If the men’s soccer team could have held on for three more seconds, their season would still be alive.
Instead, the Eagles watched helplessly Saturday as Villa Julie College scored the only goal of the game with the final seconds winding down in the first round of the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) tournament.
Following three steady days of rain and a game cancellation at Christopher Newport University, the men were coming into Saturday’s game with a 10-5 record, carrying a 5-3 record in the CAC.
Villa Julie had a much inferior record but had already beaten UMW earlier in the season, 2-0.
The first half saw loads of slipping and falling as the elements played a huge role in how the teams moved around the field. The wet field led to sloppy play, which led to foul tempers and frustration.
“We couldn’t figure out how to put the ball into the net,” said freshman Matt Davis.
With 21 minutes to go in the first half, there were two consecutive yellow cards as the visiting Mustangs let their emotions get the best of them.
Soon thereafter, with 9:05 remaining in the first half, the Mustangs committed another penalty. The infraction occurred in the goalie box and resulted in a penalty kick.
Sophomore back Ryan Taibl lined up his kick but it proved to be too high and sailed over the crossbar.
The Eagles had another chance when freshman forward T.L. Tutor set-up Taibl right in front of the goal, but the visiting Mustang goalie made a great play to deny the kick.
Although the Eagles dominated the first half and outshot the Mustangs 10-1, they couldn’t convert and the half ended in a 0-0 tie.
The second half began just as the first half had ended: back-and-forth play, both teams slipping and falling all over the wet field, and penalties galore.
UMW continued to test the visiting goalie, but he was up to the challenge and made numerous saves on shots that would have normally found the back of the net.
Much like the first half, the ball possession was in favor of the Eagles. Despite their many chances, UMW could not find a way to capitalize.
However, the Eagles saw the momentum change hands for a split second with 13:53 remaining, as the visiting Mustangs had two of their shots denied by Eagle defenders, one after the other.
Until these two attempts on goal, sophomore goalie Emmett Rutkowski had not been very busy defending the net.
After a controversial penalty against the Eagles, the visiting Mustangs were given a free kick from about 20 yards away from the goal.
With three seconds remaining in the game, Emslie Gault headed a crossing ball into the back of the net, silencing the whole stadium.
The crowd watched in shock as the visiting Mustangs stampeded around the field, taunting Eagle fans.
Head coach Roy Gordon said the questionable penalty was not an excuse to lose.
“Refereeing shouldn’t be a factor in the outcome of a game,” he said. “We had so many chances to score and win; we just weren’t able to convert.”
The loss ended the men’s 2007 season with 10-6 record and left players like sophomore Michael Johnson disappointed after coming so close to an overtime.
“It was a rough loss and we weren’t prepared,” he said.
UMW will look to underclassmen such as Tutor and Taibl to lead next year’s team.