PENSACOLA, Fla. — The Pfeiffer University men’s soccer team is shooting for perfection and now it is one step away from achieving that goal.
But it was far from an easy task as the Falcons (24-0) edged Charleston (W.Va.), 2-1, in the first semifinal contest of the 2015 NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer Championship Thursday.
“We have goal scorers and we have heart, and we found a way to win the ball game,” said Pfeiffer head coach Bob Reasso.
Pfeiffer needed a golden goal in the 105th minute from sophomore forward Jaime Siaj to pull out the victory.
“We fought until the end,” Siaj said. “I was in the right place for my teammates and we were able to win the game. We’ve got to keep fighting.”
Sophomore forward Santi Moar sent a cross pass meant for the nation’s leading scorer Nathan Regis. The junior striker couldn’t get to it, but Siaj was there to boot it in to send the Falcons to their first-ever NCAA title match.
“We said before the overtime if we can get wide and get more crosses in the box,” Reasso said. “Drive the ball across the box. Santi did exactly that. (Regis) couldn’t get to it because Siaj was at the far post where he was supposed to be and he did.”
Pfeiffer, which was playing in its first-ever NCAA semifinal, advances to play the Rockhurst-Cal Poly Pomona winner in Saturday’s championship game at 4 p.m. ET.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Regis said. “This program has really turned around since Coach Reasso took over. He really changed the program.”
The game was fast-paced and physical from the start, and featured Regis and Will Roberts — two of the top goal scorers in Division II — who both tallied goals in regulation.
The Falcons got on the board first as Regis broke through with his 30th goal of the season in the 31st minute with help from Moar’s assist. Regis has scored nine more goals than any other Division II player in the country.
The Golden Eagles (20-3-0) had plenty of chances, outshooting Pfeiffer, 20-10, in their second straight appearance in the NCAA semifinals but Charleston couldn’t find the net until the 89th minute.
“We had so many more chances than they did. We had chance after chance after chance,” said Charleston head coach Chris Grassie. “We had to put one of those away to advance.”
The Golden Eagles finally found pay dirt as senior forward Lewis Osborne provided a perfect pass to sophomore forward Will Roberts who booted a shot to the near side past freshman goalkeeper Tomas Correa. Roberts’ 21st goal of the season knotted the score at 1-1 with seconds remaining in regulation.
“When we went down, 1-0, the guys never gave up,” Grassie said. “To even it up with a couple minutes remaining was an excellent feat, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough.”
Correa registered nine saves on the night, holding Charleston to one goal. The Golden Eagles had entered the contest scoring 3.05 goals per game.