Shootout sends North Park to NCAA Finals
The North Park University Men's Soccer team (20-1-1) traveled all the way to North Carolina to take on a rival just a short bus drive away: The University of Chicago Maroons.
The Maroons were the first ones out of the gate, with an early corner kick and header, saved by Mathias Stulen just over two minutes into the game. North Park dug their heels in a few times to break the Maroon rhythm, nearly scoring on a breakaway goal towards Carel Kawele. Unfortunately, the would-be assist came in a little too hot and the University of Chicago took control.
In the 10th and 11th minutes of play, the Maroons threatened yet again with two back-to-back shots. Thankfully, the North Park defense did what they do best and nullified every shot.
Defensive efforts aside, the Vikings needed to have a push towards their opponents' side. Kyle Robson was the first change of momentum with a few quality throw-ins to give North Park a fighting chance at a shot. Yet, the same tune was played as the Maroons continued to move the ball away from harm.
Moving to the 23rd minute of play, a cross sent in by the University of Chicago offense put the Vikings back on their toes, as Mathias Stulen robbed the Maroons' header attempt to preserve the 0-0 tie. Following the header chance, the Maroons ripped a firm shot directly at Stulen, unable to cleanly snag the shot. This allowed for one more chance for the Maroons, thankfully missing wide.
The Vikings yearned for their first shot of the game, as a ten-minute shot drought dragged the game along. The Maroons and Vikings traded possession back and forth for the remainder of the half as neither of the teams were able to break a scoreless tie.
Shatil Khoury took control to start the second half, sneaking the ball away from the Maroon defense and giving North Park their first shot on goal. The shot ended up missing wide, but the Vikings shook the monkey off their back.
Mathias Stulen proved to be the heart and soul that kept the game knotted at zero, mirroring a University of Chicago defender and diving completely parallel to the ground on one of his most impressive saves to date. Following that impressive save, the Maroons had a flurry of chances to score. However, thanks to multiple saves and a questionable offsides call against the University of Chicago, the Vikings kept the score tied.
In the 76th minute of play, the Vikings finally saw an opportunity. Carel Kawele received a redirected free kick and let loose a frozen rope towards the University of Chicago net. Making an impressive save of his own, the Maroons' Hill Bonin came up with the save.
With shots at an incredibly lopsided 17-2, in favor of the opposition, North Park's defense continued to hang on by the skin of their teeth.
Still, another challenge was on the horizon, as North Park entered their first overtime match since October 11th.
The Vikings threatened twice to start their overtime play, as a beautiful corner kick from the far side of the field off the foot of Henrik Roesholt was headed just high by First Team All American Matias Warp. Another corner kick came from Gustav Ericsson just two minutes later, but the shot from Jason Gonzalez could not squeak its way through the Maroons' defense.
Neither team capitalized with a golden goal, and the Vikings and Maroons were on their way to a second overtime.
The second overtime saw more action from the Maroons' offense, missing on a shot high and a shot wide as game time surpassed triple digits. However, neither team marked yet again and the scoreless draw was on its way to a shootout.
With the game on the line, neither team was ready to back down. After six Vikings capitalized on shootout goals, Gustav Ericsson nailed the seventh to give the Vikings a 7-6 advantage. This brought up the University of Chicago's Renato Corghi. Renato sent a low shot towards the left side of the goal, but Mathias Stulen did not fold under pressure. Diving to his right, he knocked the shot away and sealed a North Park University NCAA DIII Men's Soccer Finals trip!
The Vikings (20-1-2) will face off in NCAA DIII Soccer's final game of the season against Messiah College, who also had the disadvantage of double overtime minutes. The game is scheduled to start at 6:00 PM CST in a winner-take-all match. Make sure to follow along on our official Twitter, Facebook, and Athletics pages! All live video and live stats links will be posted there.