The Emmaus Eagles soccer team travelled to Watertown, Wisconsin to take on Regional opponent Maranatha Baptist University, a school the Eagles had never beaten. Maranatha, a traditional powerhouse in the region, came into the game toting a dozen seniors and returning 10 starters from the previous year's campaign.
The game got off to a rocky start for the visiting Eagles as Maranatha, aided by the wind, quick passes, and plenty of movement, managed to shred the Eagle defense on a number of occasions. Eagle keeper Jacob Bauder (#1) came up with several huge saves, and the Sabercats saw several efforts sail off target. The Eagles, for their part, looked to weather the storm, and made several position changes to cover for injured players. Traditional forward Mason McCarl (#7) stepped back into the defense to replace an injured John Hertz (#22). On the offensive end, Emmaus did manage to create a few close chances when Fabian Parra (#3) managed to get in behind the Sabercat defense, but one shot sailed high while the other was saved off the line by a Sabercat defender. Overall, the Eagles were happy to get to the locker room tied at zeroes after having been outshot by a signiciant margin and having given up a record 12 corner kicks.
With the wind at their backs to start the second half, Emmaus came out looking like a brand new team. With every long defensive clearance, the confidence of the Eagle defense grew. The front three players, Cullen Tuttle (#9), Fabian Parra (#3), and Sam Tran (#19) started to work together to force turnovers and to pressure the Sabercats back line.
With the game starting to become more of a back and forth contest, the Sabercats finally managed to catch their long sought break in the 53rd minute. After earning a free kick from 30 yards out, Nathan Campbell (#8) stepped up and cracked a massive strike on target. Bauder's diving save kept the ball out, but Joel Shepard (#18) pounced on the rebound and slotted it home to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
"I honestly thought, here we go again," said Coach Brown. "We struggled Tuesday to play the final 30 minutes, and down by a goal, I wasn't sure how the boys would respond. They surprised me in all the best ways."
The kickoff after the goal was taken by Sam Tran (#19), who dropped the ball to senior captain Carson McBain (#11). McBain, in a heads up play, noticed that the Sabercat keeper Tim Kinzler (#1) was off his line. McBain craftily fired the ball from beyond half, and with the aid of the wind, managed to chip the keeper for Emmaus's first ever goal in Watertown, knotting the score at 1-1.
Absolutely rejuvenated by the goal, Emmaus came out with energy and continued to press their own attack. The rest of the half saw both teams create dangerous chances, with both defense looking shaky at times, but holding firm. With the referee's second whistle, the Eagles were headed to overtime.
With the wind at their backs once again, the Eagles looked to create chances, but it was Maranatha who came out swinging. Still, with a big save from Bauder and some stingy play by the defense, the score remained the same. Double overtime was up next.
Emmaus, against the wind, had a strong start, but failed to get a quality effort on target. The final game break game in the 103rd minute when the Sabercats launched a counterattack that saw their first effort saved by Bauder, their second effort blocked by an Emmaus defender, and their final effort by Tyler Nelson (#7) deservedly in the back of the net to give the home team the 2-1 golden goal victory.
The Eagles gave up 20 corner kicks on the night and allowed 41 shots, but led by Bauder's 20 saves, this will go down as a great effort by the visitors.
"Our boys played their absolute hearts out," said Coach Block after the game. "I am very proud of their effort. If they play like this, they can beat anyone on our schedule this year."
Coach Brown commented that, "It was a pleasure to watch these boys stick together, learn as they played, and make a game out of it against a very tough opponent. The Sabercats are an excellent team led by a coaching legend, Jeff Pill. To get this close feels good… but now it's time to get ready for our next game. I am proud of these boys, and am excited to start conference play next weekend!"
The Eagles will have the weekend off before travelling to Manhattan, Kansas, to begin their conference play against the Thunder of Manhattan Christian College (September 20) and the Bears of Barclay College (September 21). Kickoffs are TBD.