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Saints drop semifinals match in overtime

The last time the Holy Cross College men’s soccer team faced the Olivet Nazarene Tigers, the two teams played a fiercely competitive game that ended in a 2-2 draw.

So, it was fitting that when the two teams rematched in the Chicagoland College Athletic Conference Semifinals, they would need overtime to decide a winner.

The game was almost perfectly even in the first half, with the Tigers taking six shots to the Saints’ five. The Saints had a bit of momentum early, taking three of the game’s first five shots, though two offsides calls would stymie their attack on a few promising plays.

The Tigers were able to generate a flurry of opportunities in the 23rd and 33rd minutes. But, the Saints defense rose to the occasion and blocked two shots and forced a third high. The Tigers earned two first-half goal kicks, but the Saints played an unyielding defense.

The teams would trade shot attempts to start the second half, but Olivet eventually got rolling on defense, denying the Saints a single attempt after a shot from junior defender Victor Sellu went wide right in the 55th minute.

Olivet did much better in their attacking zone, taking 11 shots, with Holy Cross sophomore goalkeeper Claudio Fuentealba making the two saves that came his way. After 90 minutes, the game needed overtime to decide the winner.

Once again, the Saints opened with the first shot attempt of the period, this time by sophomore forward Kevin Vidana which was blocked. Olivet, on the other hand, was able to find the game’s first goal in the 94th minute. Tigers attacker Justin Eisenmann, who had had two quality chances earlier in the game, buried his third try off a pass from Max Jasper.

Though the Saints would rally and force one more effort (a header by Sellu that went wide of the net), they would head into the second overtime frame trailing 0-1.

In the 101st minute of play, senior midfielder Axel Valenzuela put up the first shot of the period for the Saints, but it was saved by Mike Giannotta. The Saints would take two more shots, one by Sellu that was high and one by senior midfielder Elmin Ejup that Giannotta again saved.

As the in-stadium announcer began the 10-second countdown, senior midfielder Jeffrey Harper tried a last-ditch corner kick, but it was repelled and then cleared by the Tiger defense, securing their 1-0 victory.

With the win, the Olivet Tigers will advance to face the No. 2 seed Cardinal Stritch Wolves, who survived their own overtime thriller against the Roosevelt Lakers. The Tigers will host the CCAC Championship on Friday.

The Saints now fall 3-12-3 against the Tigers and finish their season with a 10-5-4 overall record and a 7-1-4 record in CCAC play.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu.