Late goal keeps Fort Lewis alive
Skyhawks will make their fifth appearance in quarterfinals
DURANGO, Colo. -- Thomas Hoang scored with 6:06 remaining in regulation to lead No. 3 Fort Lewis (21-1-0 overall) to a 1-0 win against No. 9 Incarnate Word (Texas) (14-3-3) Sunday in cold and rain at Dirks Field.
“I think it was a battle,” said third-year Fort Lewis head coach Oige Kennedy, who improved to 7-0-0 in NCAA tournament games. “I think they had the better of us in the first half, and we had the better in the second. It was an evenly played match.”
The visiting Cardinals outshot the Skyhawks 6-3 in the first half, but never solved the Skyhawk defense. Fort Lewis turned the tables on Incarnate Word in the second half, outshooting their opponents by an 11-7 clip.
“I think we played a little less inhibited,” Kennedy said of his side's performance in the second stanza. “The nerves kind of went away after the first half. We had some good chances in front of goal. If we'd have taken advantage of them, we might have had a 2-0 or 3-0 lead. Unfortunately we didn't.”
Casey Dean broke into the box from the right side in the 58th minute, but sent a shot just over the crossbar.
Fort Lewis had its chances. Kosta Kordistos had a one-v-one opportunity against UIW goalkeeper Chris Fielder in the 67th minute after juking a defender, settling the ball, and advancing calmly toward goal. His point-blank chance was rejected by Fielder, though, to set up a corner kick.
“Kosta had a great chance and Casey had one, too,” said Kennedy.
Right outside defender Artur Piperkov stepped up late in the match to make game-saving plays on both ends. In the 79th minute, the Cardinals broke free on the left flank and beat FLC goalkeeper Ryan Wirth. Piperkov, though, cleared the crossing pass from in front of the goal mouth to nullify the scoring chance.
Four minutes later, he found himself streaking down the right side and drilling a shot on goal that Fielder stopped, but left a juicy rebound in front of the goal for Hoang to tap in for his ninth marker of the season.
“I thought he had a great game [Sunday],” Kennedy said of Piperkov. “He was reminiscent of Kyle Wood [the starting right back on FLC's 2009 NCAA Division II national championship team going down that right side.”
The Skyhawk skipper also praised Hoang, who led all players with six shots.
“He was in the right place at the right time,” Kennedy said of Hoang, who has two goals and an assist in Fort Lewis' two playoff games in 2011.
With the victory, the Skyhawks advance to the NCAA Division II quarterfinals, where they'll face No. 17 California State-Los Angeles (15-1-6), 3-2 winners at No. 13 Seattle Pacific on Saturday. The Golden Eagles were making their fourth trip to the West Region championship in the past six seasons, and advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
The Skyhawks are making their fifth trip to the quarterfinals and are 4-0 in their previous four treks into the quarterfinals, winning at home in 1999, 2005, 2006, and 2009. Each of those four seasons ended with trips to the NCAA Division II championship game.