The Gator’s season opened in a heartbreaking loss Monday afternoon when Notre Dame de Namur’s sophomore defender Mikhail Wingate-Pearce tapped in the golden goal from point-blank range for a 3-2 loss for SF State.
The goal came in the 92nd minute of play-off of a Notre Dame free kick that was swung into the 18-yard box, which was then flicked on to the back post and eventually tapped in for the game winner.
The Gator’s back line played well despite the Argonauts dominating the battle for possession and attempts on goal for most of the match.
“Anytime you give up three goals, there are going to be issues,” head coach Joe Hunter said. “Our level of communication just wasn’t there.”
The Gators were unable to string together consistent attacks, instead scoring on a turnover in the box that senior Edgar Villagrana pounced on.
With the Argonauts defense stiffening, SF State were forced to change their tactics in response to their attacks being halted early, and not being given a chance to develop.
“Coaches wanted to see if we can try and build possession at a higher part of the field and use me as a target,” said Senior Sasha Chalak.”Then [coaches] moved me back in the mid-field to get on the ball more and try to slow the tempo down and get the game under control. I was then pushed back up top in overtime to try and push for that game winning goal.”
The Argonauts, on the other hand, were consistently putting balls in the area and racing down the wings, challenging the Gators to constantly defend.
“We just didn’t have pressure on the service ball today,” said goalkeeper Mike McNeill. “Unfortunately breakdowns are going to happen, and we know that (Notre Dame) are talented players. They have really good forwards that played well.”
SF State scored their second goal on a ball played into the box to sophomore Kevin Johnson, who scored on an exceptional outside foot flick that chipped over the Notre Dame keeper.
One of the more pivotal moments of the match came off of a penalty awarded to Notre Dame on a tackle in the box by senior Luis Mendoza. Mendoza, who had been shown a yellow card for an earlier infraction was sent off despite his protests.
“Mendoza was playing with emotion, so he made a mistake, but I think we were resilient coming back from being down a goal earlier,” Hunter said.
The penalty tied the game at 2-2, and forced extra time where the Argonauts finished the game off with a win.
In regards to this being their first game, Hunter said, “When you get hit on the chin, you got to see how you react to it.”