BANNER ELK, N.C. --- The North Georgia College & State University men's soccer team equalized with less than 15 seconds left in regulation, and netted the winner seven minutes into extra time to rally for a 2-1 victory over Lees-McRae College in NCAA Division II Southeast Region play on Thursday afternoon at Tate Field.
The two sides battled for possession throughout the afternoon, as North Georgia (3-3) edged Lees-McRae (2-5) in shots by a 21-16 margin, including a 13-5 advantage in the second half. North Georgia held a 9-5 advantage on corner kicks in a physical match that featured 35 fouls and three cautions.
James Galvani (High Wycombe, England) tallied his team-leading third goal of the season for the Bobcats, as James Smith (Eastbourne, England) added an assist and Kevin Ruppert (Fayetteville, N.C.) notched the first helper of his collegiate career. Thomas Rusling (Sheffield, England) recorded four saves in the contest, as Galvani, Smith and Scott Hudgins (Fort Myers, Fla.) paced the Bobcats with three shots each.
Jamie Gleeson and Chris Bishop each found the back of the net to pace the Saints, as Gustavo Cunha made a match-high six attempts at goal and Irving Salgado and Amin El-Shami each recorded an assist. Kristopher Alonzo made four saves between the pipes for the Saints.
Both teams pressured the opposing keeper early, as North Georgia forced Rusling into a pair of stops prior to the quarter hour mark and Shoemaker gave Alonzo an early test in the opening moments of the 13th minute. Galvani nearly provided the breakthrough for the Bobcats four minutes later, making a run into the area and volleying a Smith cross just wide of the woodwork from close range.
Hudgins and Scott Alford (Hillsborough, N.C.) gave Alonzo a pair of difficult tests just before the interval each nodding a header toward goal and forcing the Saint keeper to push it wide to preserve the deadlock.
The deadlock held into the late stages of the 83rd minute when Ruppert fed a ball into Smith from the wing, putting the sophomore in position to set up Galvani for a masterful finish into the bottom corner to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead. Lees-McRae held the advantage until the closing seconds of the 90th minute, when Salgado won the ball on the right flank and sent a cross into the area, finding Bishop for the finish to level the match at the death and send the contest into extra time.
North Georgia controlled possession in extra time, pushing forward with five attempts on frame before finding the winner early in the 98th minute on a header by Gleeson. El-Shami set up the play with a driven cross into the area following a run to the end line, putting Gleeson in perfect position to nod home the finish and give the Saints the 2-1 extra time victory.
Lees-McRae returns to the pitch on Saturday when the Bobcats travel to Charlotte, N.C. to resume their Conference Carolinas schedule with a 7:30 p.m. matchup against Queens University of Charlotte.
- LMC -