SF State men’s soccer defeated Hawaii-Hilo Vulcans Wednesday in a long and frustrating bout, thanks to late in the game heroics from juniors Colt Reichl and Sam Merritt.
The Gators won in the first two minutes of overtime off an inbounds play that got the ball to sophomore James Aguirre, who served the ball to Merritt in a crowd of Vulcan defenders for a header from 10 yards out, sealing the 1-0 victory for the Gators.
“It was just a tough battle,” said coach Matt Barnes. “We had to keep talking to the boys to be patient your chance will come and especially in overtime. We knew we’d get a couple of chances if we got the ball served in the right spot and we finally did.”
In the second half, Barnes made a coaching change and decided to put in reserve goalkeeper Reichl, who had been out with a concussion for three weeks.
“We really felt like it was a really good opportunity to get good minutes in a game before we finish up with these last three CCAAs,” Barnes said. “I didn’t want him coming in without getting any minutes in if I called him up.”
At the 85-minute mark, Reichl made the game-clinching save as a Vulcan player came from the left side and shot across. Reichl followed, not noticing the runner coming down the middle. The runner missed the ball and Reichl quickly recovered, diving onto the ball that was only a few feet away from becoming a game-winning goal for Hawaii-Hilo.
“I got the opportunity in the second half and got a little lucky saved that one on the goal line,” Reichl said. “I saw the runner and as he went to flick it I was thinking I hope he messes up. He got a little touch and I got across pretty quick and made a save.”
The game was a tough one for the Gators, as Hawaii-Hilo did not give up a lot of opportunities in the box. The Gators have struggled offensively all year, but the team’s tough defense kept giving them opportunities to win.
“It was kind of a frustrating game because we couldn’t get much going offensively, but we stuck with it and found a way to win the game,” Merritt said.
Barnes praised Hawaii-Hilo’s defense by for playing hard against the Gators. Of the 21 shots that SF State took, only nine were on goal, and eight of them were saved by the Vulcans.
“We had to grind that one out. I don’t think it was a really pretty soccer game,” Barnes said. “Hawaii-Hilo does a really good job of packing it in and making it tough to play.”
The Gators play again Friday Oct. 24, at Chico State.
“It’s a good sign when the boys don’t play well and you find a way to win,” Barnes said. “I’m excited about having three games to go to the playoffs. Even to be talking about it in this program with three games to go is a new experience for all of us.”