MT. PLEASANT, S.C. – The College of Charleston men’s soccer season came to an abrupt end when a 2-1 loss to CAA-champion Drexel eliminated the Cougars from Colonial Athletic Association Championship contention at Patriots Point on Wednesday night.
After two explosive victories reinserted the Cougars back into the thick of the CAA race, CofC (4-10-1, 2-3-1 CAA) came into Wednesday’s Senior Night needing a win to clinch one of six berths into the league playoffs, but Drexel (8-7-3, 4-2-1 CAA) had other plans and used the victory to clinch the regular season championship and hosting rights for the tournament.
CofC had a precipitous deficit to overcome when Drexel mounted a 2-0 lead 10 minutes into the second half, and a seemingly-appropriate relentless drizzle weighed down the Cougars’ efforts the rest of the way.
The Cougars’ endeavor was nonetheless interminable, and Troy Peterson (Federal Way, Wash.) scored in the waning minutes to bring the Cougars within one goal, but that’d ultimately be as close as they got before the final whistle sounded.
“Drexel is a good team and managed the game well,” said head coach Ralph Lundy. “The first goal they got was truly a great goal. We started applying pressure too late in the game. Our first goal needed to come at about the 25 minute mark, then we probably would have gotten another one and even another one. We just overwhelmed them in about the last 12 minutes, unfortunately it came too late.
“I feel great about the team. I’m very proud of them. We had a huge challenge this year with the schedule and we came up short, but we’re not going to change it. We are going to keep challenging the best and we just have to keep getting better.”
The game flowed freely from end to end in the early going, but Drexel appeared to be in the ascendancy as the match began to take its shape. The Dragons enjoyed spells of possession in the first half, but the Cougars created several quality runs on counterattacks throughout the period.
Adan Noel (La Brea, Trinidad) nearly had himself an early goal when he pierced the defense on one such counter and made a clever move to switch the ball to his left foot, but his attempt to bend a ball inside the left post narrowly stayed outside the goal post.
The Cougars handled the Dragon attack until the 42nd minute, when Adam Arana sent an inviting, out-swinging ball from the right corner into the box, and Jared Girard elevated to head the ball into the far side-netting.
Just under 10 minutes into the second half, Drexel’s Phillip Hagerty cut up the right side of the pitch and into the 18-yard box where he drove a low centering feed to Guido Pena who slid onto it and booted it into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
As rain fell through the sky like sand through an hourglass, the Cougars heavily pushed numbers forward as Drexel increased its defensive personnel, resulting in a clustered attacking third in which the Cougars produced flurries of chances.
The Cougars finally managed to navigate the congestion in the 88th minute when Tam McGowan (Glasgow, Scotland) collected the ball along the right endline and skipped a pass across the wet turf to Peterson who chested it to the ground and drove a shot across the goal line.
By the end of the match, the Cougars had outshot the Dragons, 15-9, with a 10-2 advantage coming in the second half.
In honor of Senior Night, the Cougars honored the careers of five outstanding seniors: McGowan, Kees Heemskerk (Zaandam, Netherlands), Connor Coons (Alpharetta, Ga.), Porter Massey (Charleston, S.C.), and Thomas Winstead (Columbia, S.C.).
McGowan, Coons and Heemskerk each played all 90 minutes in their final games as Cougars, and Heemskerk made four saves in his swan song.
“I feel strong about the five seniors; they’ve been tremendous and they’re great young men,” said Lundy. “The team fought all season just like they fought in this game. We just have to keep learning and growing. We have to make the ball bounce right for us, so there are no excuses.”