KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Despite losing a pool play game against Ottawa-Arizona on Wednesday, there was still reason to celebrate for Grace’s men’s soccer team.
The Lancers clinched their spot in the national semifinals despite Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat. Grace was the highest overall runner-up after pool play games were concluded.
As a result, the Lancers (10-7-3) will take on top-seeded Campbellsville on Friday at 12 p.m. It will mark Grace’s second straight appearance to the NCCAA semifinals.
Ottawa-Arizona (OUAZ) scored a goal off a penalty kick and a free kick to beat the Lancers and win the pool.
Grace seemed to have the better first half yet was saddled with a 1-0 deficit. The Lancers moved the ball effectively and seemed to control the pace of the first half.
The Lancers had two golden opportunities to score. The first came after a corner kick.
A loose ball came to Kyle Smith in the penalty box, and Smith quickly turned and shot at OUAZ’s net but was saved.
The next chance came on another quick attack. A ball was served into the box, and Ulisses Miranda redirected it into the air toward Marcelo Talamas.
Talamas trapped the ball and athletically volleyed at the net, but his shot whisked above the crossbar.
The Spirit (15-5-2) scored against the run of play. OUAZ advanced into Grace’s penalty box and was awarded a penalty kick in the 41st minute. The Spirit converted on the PK for a 1-0 advantage.
Both teams shot three times, and Grace had the only two corner kicks before halftime.
It did not take Grace long to equalize after halftime. In the 54th minute, Henrique Cerruti tried to cross into the box. The attempt was stopped, and the ball slowly rolled back toward the top of the 18-yard line.
Cerruti raced to the loose ball and sliced a one-time volley between two defenders. The shot curled magnificently inside the right goalpost to tie the game at 1-1.
Seven minutes later, Grace threatened again. Talamas headed a shot from close range, but his attempt was pushed above the crossbar by the Spirit’s goalkeeper.
In the 81st minute, Jonny Mora found Miranda with a cross, but Miranda’s left-footed shot in front of the goal was saved.
Mora was involved on Grace’s next chance, crossing into the box again. But Ze Maria Goncalves’s shot was saved.
The game was won in the final four minutes. The Spirit earned a free kick and scored off the direct attempt.
Grace was unable to produce a shot over the final frantic minutes and had to settle for the loss.
Talamas shot four times with two on goal, and Smith shot twice. Colton Wottring made four saves in goal for the Lancers.