Coulter saves four penalties in shootout to cap historic night
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 11, 2011) - It will go down as a 3-3 tie in the record books, but the ETSU men's soccer team came back from two goals down to advance to the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship final with a thrilling 5-4 penalty kick shootout win over Stetson on Friday night inside Summers-Taylor Stadium.
“It was one of the most exciting college soccer games I’ve ever had the chance to be a part of,” said ETSU head coach Scott Calabrese, whose team has now reached the A-Sun final for its second-consecutive season. “I was so proud of our guys and how we dug deep. We didn’t start according to the game plan but immediately realized this was something we would have to fight for.”
Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Coulter (Dublin, Ireland) made four saves in a penalty kick shootout that saw each side take eight shots. The Irish keeper saved ETSU’s season with a stop on Stetson’s fifth attempt - which would have won the game - and the final save on Ryan Asare-Bediako's penalty to make ETSU (10-6-4, 3-4-1 A-Sun) the first No. 6 seed to advance to the Championship final in A-Sun history.
“It was a roller coaster ride of emotions to say the least,” Coulter said. “We’ve got such character on this team; we drive and keep at it. Penalties are a lottery, but maybe I should go out and buy a ticket because I [feel like] I just won the lottery. I could not be any happier.”
After the Bucs gave up two goals to Stetson (10-5-4, 6-1-1 A-Sun) in the first seven minutes of the game, junior Frank Doumbe (Silver Spring, Md.) put ETSU on the board before sophomore David Geno (Kingsport, Tenn.) scored twice to put ETSU ahead 3-2 with less than three minutes to play. Stetson tied the match on an own goal with 43 seconds remaining in regulation to send the semifinal into overtime and eventually a penalty shootout.
The Bucs’ comeback from two goals down is just their second in program history. ETSU did so on one other occasion, Sept. 1, 2009, when it trailed Wofford 2-0 before scoring two second half goals to walk away with a tie.
ETSU outshot Stetson 20-13 for the match, putting nine shots on goal to the Hatters’ six and winning the corner battle 6-5. 15 of the Bucs’ 20 shots came after halftime as ETSU only reeled off five attempts through the first 45 minutes.
On a cold night at Summers-Taylor Stadium, with game time temperatures in the mid to upper 30s, Stetson froze the Johnson City crowd with two goals in the first 6:38. J.J. Bostic put the first Hatter score through in the fourth minute before Joakim Helland blasted a free kick from just outside the top of the box into the upper left corner.
Before the match seemingly even started, ETSU found itself in what looked to be an insurmountable hole. The Bucs needed two goals against a Stetson squad which held ETSU scoreless for 110 minutes in their meeting during the regular season.
The first came in the 24th minute. Stetson, in control of the match, attempted to clear a ball from its own box when Doumbe put ETSU back in the game. Bostic turned to pass the ball away without noticing Doumbe creeping forward. The Silver Spring, Md. native stole the pass, slipped by the keeper Andreas Schnabl and fired into an open net to electrify the stadium and put ETSU back within a goal.
The end of the half came with ETSU still trailing by a goal, but the Bucs had put themselves back in the match. After taking four of the game’s first five shots and scoring two goals, Stetson allowed ETSU to take momentum with the final four shots of the half including Doumbe’s goal.
Just over three minutes into the second period, the Bucs equalized. Senior Aaron Schoenfeld (Knoxville, Tenn.) headed a ball sent in the box to Geno, and the Bucs’ leading goal scorer headed home his eighth goal of the season to erase Stetson’s once commanding lead.
Jonathan Mendoza, the A-Sun Player of the Year, all but put the Hatters back on top in the 68th minute. The conference’s leading goal scorer caught Coulter flat-footed and touched a shot towards goal, but the opportunity was denied by the left post. Kai Eckenrode found the rebound, but sent his shot wide as the Bucs remained tied.
Junior Theo Yang (Lilburn, Ga.) added to the dramatics of Friday night with two near goals off free kicks from near the box. Yang’s first was driven towards the right post but sailed just wide and into the side netting. His second, 10 minutes later, was struck with equally exceptionally pace, but Schnabl made a diving save to hold the game even.
Geno then sent the Bucs ahead with some assistance from sophomore Itode Fubara (Ogbema, Nigeria). Fubara lined up for a corner in the final minutes of regulation and sent a ball high through the box to Geno on the far end. The First Team All-Conference selection took one step before driving a shot past Schnabl and ETSU took its first lead at 2:12 to play.
With its season on the line, Stetson put its fate in the feet of Mendoza and the Player of the Year delivered. Taking a ball up the left side of the field with under a minute to play, Mendoza sent a ball through the box in hope of something good happening. Luckily for Stetson, it did as ETSU senior defender Jaron Westbrook (Round Rock, Texas) slid to try and clear the cross but instead poked it into the net to bring the match even with only 43 seconds remaining.
The game nearly ended two minutes into overtime, when Asare-Bediako blasted a curling shot around Coulter that seemed headed for goal. With ETSU's season in the balance, Asare-Bediako's shot slammed off the upper left post and was cleared.
It was the best opportunity for either side through the two overtimes, as the match headed to a shootout.
Schoenfeld stepped up for the first kick and, after going two-for-two on penalties during the regular season, had his shot saved by Dan Billman. Coulter kept ETSU even with a save on Stetson’s first attempt off a try by the A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year, Luis Ocejo.
After four penalties apiece, ETSU and Stetson were even at two each. Fubara took the Bucs’ fifth penalty with a strike off the bottom of the crossbar which fell straight down and bounced away from goal. Coulter was now called upon to save ETSU’s season, and did so by shutting down Gonzalo De Mujica’s potential game-winner.
Still deadlocked after seven penalties each, redshirt sophomore local product Jonny Campbell (Johnson City, Tenn.) put a no-doubter past Billman to put ETSU back ahead 5-4. Needing a miss by Asare-Bediako to advance to their second-straight A-Sun final, the Bucs watched as Coulter dove to his right and used his left hand to reach up and punch ETSU’s ticket to the conference final.
“The character that this team showed was very impressive,” added Calabrese. “We’re going to need it against Florida Gulf Coast in the championship.”
FGCU and ETSU will square off in the Atlanitc Sun Tournament Championship game on Sunday, Nov. 13, inside Summers-Taylor Stadium at 1 p.m. The Eagles defeated Mercer 2-1 in Friday's first semifinal, earning their first Division I postseason win in their first year of eligibility after transferring over from Division II. In their regular season contest, the Bucs handed FGCU its only loss in conference play with a 2-1 victory in Johnson City.
For more information on ETSU men’s soccer, please visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s soccer links.