SAN ANTONIO -- The Rutgers-Camden Scarlet Raptors earned a slot in the NCAA Division III championship game with a wild 3-2 semifinal overtime victory against the Loras Duhawks on Friday night at Toyota Field.
Rutgers-Camden (23-0-2) will take on nine-time national champion Messiah in the title game at 6:30 p.m. EST Saturday. Loras finished the season with a 22-1-2 mark.
The Scarlet Raptors, playing in the first national semifinal, advanced to the championship as senior midfielder Keegan Balle fired in the improbable winning goal from 75 yards out in the second minute of the first overtime period.
"We had the wind in the first overtime, so we knew we had the monentum," Balle said. "Our whole mentality in overtime is to get a goal as soon as possible. I took the free kick, and I knew we had the wind at our back. I hit it and tried to keep it in the frame of the goal, and the next thing I knew it was in the back of the net."
Rutgers-Camden scored first in the match as sophomore forward Mike Ryan coupled with senior midfielder Stevan Austino in the 13th minute. But Loras, playing in the San Antonio semifinals for the second consecutive time, evened things up as sophomore midfielder Richard Lenke scored an unassisted goal in the 80th minute. Four minutes later, the Duhawks took a 2-1 lead as junior midfielder Tim van den Bergh scored, with an assist from junior midfielder Johnny Rummelhart.But the Scarlet Raptors scored the equalizer goal on a combination play from senior defenders Taylor McGrory and Bobby Foster.
"It's a great experience for our kids to be here," said eighth-year Rutgers-Camden coach Tim Oswald, whose Scarlet Raptors set a school record for victories. "We talked the whole week about seizing the opportunity, and I think our boys did that. I think there was stress and pressure on the guys, being a semifinal, but they were able to battle through it and get themselves in the game."
Loras senior goalkeeper Dylan Milkent recorded seven saves in the game, as did Rutgers-Camden senior Mike Randall. The Duhawks led 25-19 in total shots, but the Scarlet Raptors held a 10-9 advantage in shots on goal.
Dan Rothert, in his 16th season at the Loras helm, had taken the Duhawks to the NCAA tournament nine consecutive times, and to the semifinals for the fourth time in the past seven years.
"In the first 30 [minutes] they were on us," Rothert said. "But I think our system where we play 23 or 24 guys wore them down. We felt confident going into halftime, that the pressure was going to start giving us more opportunities. We had tested the keeper in the first half and in the second half. We had those two goals from the starting group, because they had just gotten a break. [The Loras players] put it all on the line tonight."
The men's and women's semifinals are being co-hosted by Trinity and San Antonio Sports for the fifth consecutive year.