WASHINGTON — Only one goal separated Goucher and top-seeded Catholic when the two teams faced off during the regular season, and this afternoon's Landmark semifinal matchup was even closer.
After 90 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute sudden death overtime periods, the score remained deadlocked at 1-1. That sent the match to a penalty shootout, which was also extended beyond the usual five rounds after both teams converted on four of their initial five opportunities. Ultimately, though, the Cardinals emerged with a 7-6 victory in PKs to end the Gophers' season in heartbreaking fashion.
The match officially goes down as a draw in the record books, leaving Goucher's record for the fall at 8-6-3.
"What an amazing college game between two talented and competitive teams," head coach Bryan Laut said. "The guys did everything we asked of them and stepped up in the moment. Unfortunately, at this time of year penalties get introduced and we drew the short end of the straw."
Lashaw Salta (Allen, Texas/Plano East) fired in a dramatic equalizer with 2:26 left in the second half, canceling out Catholic's opener from the 75th minute and sending the contest into overtime. Nicholas Stolarz (Clark, N.J./Arthur L. Johnson), meanwhile, made nine stops in goal, including five over the two overtime periods to force the match into penalties.
The teams combined for four shots apiece in a quick-moving first half. Marco Grotti (Milmay, N.J./Millville) had a pair of header attempts, with the second of those tries requiring a save out of Torsten Meuschke in the 40th minute. Brandon Weiner (Derwood, Md./Col. Zadok A. Magruder) also managed to direct a header on goal one minute later, but Meuschke was again up to the task.
The Cardinals (9-5-4) started the second half strong, with three shots in the first eight minutes, but Stolarz was able to keep the game scoreless.
The tie was finally broken with 15:37 left on the clock when Jack Traxler fired a low shot into the left corner to put Catholic ahead. The Cardinals nearly added a second shortly afterwards, but Traxler's 78th minute effort was cleared away at the goal line by Thomas Adair (Dunkirk, Md./Northern).
The Gophers got on the scoreboard after a free kick opportunity in the 88th minute. The ball bounced around in the box and made its way out to Salta, who blasted an effort past Meuschke for his third goal of the season.
"For four straight league games we fell behind, and not once did the guys give up on each other or quit," Laut commented. "They believed where others would doubt and that perseverance is why we were able to get as far as we did this season."
Goucher took an 11-9 shots advantage into extra time, but it was Catholic which controlled the ball for the majority of the overtime sessions. The Cardinals fired all seven of the shot attempts in overtime, five of which were on goal. Stolarz, though, came up big on each scoring opportunity, including a diving one-handed save on Tyler Zimmerman with five minutes to go in the second overtime.
Catholic led 1-0 after the first round of penalties. The Gophers got back on level terms after a Cardinal miss in round four, and the teams then traded goals for the next three rounds until a Goucher miss in round eight sealed the match for Catholic.
The Cardinals will host Merchant Marine in the championship match this Saturday, with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA national tournament.
Today's loss ended the Gopher careers of Adair, Salta, Weiner and Nate Margolis (Ivyland, Pa./Council Rock North). Goucher improved its season record in each of their last three seasons, culminating in the program's first Landmark playoff appearance in 2014.
"I'm so disappointed for our seniors to end their career in this fashion," Laut said. "However, they will be able to look back and realize the amazing impact they had in turning Goucher soccer into what it is today and what it will be in the future."