Bobcats best Buffaloes in extra time, 3-2

Bobcats best Buffaloes in extra time, 3-2

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. --- Freshman Jordan Wright (West Lothian, Scotland) netted his third brace of his career, and Ryan Gillespie (Holly Springs, N.C.) added a strike of his own from the penalty spot in the second half to lead the Lees-McRae College men's soccer team to a 3-2 extra time victory over Milligan College in non-conference play on Tuesday evening.

The match proved to be a tightly-contested and physical battle, with both sides refusing to surrender possession in an attacking-minded war of wills. Lees-McRae (7-6-1) would hold a 23-19 edge in attempts on goal when the final whistle blew, including a 13-3 advantage in the first half, while Milligan (3-12) held a 5-4 edge in attempts from the corner.

Wright paced the Bobcats with two goals, including the match-winner, to run his season total to nine. Gillespie chipped in a strike of his own to open his season account, as Matthew Cureton (Waxhaw, N.C.) added an assist. Thomas Rusling (Sheffield, England) made six saves between the pipes, as Wright took a team-high six shots, including three on frame.

Bruce Olivier and Andrew Torok each found the back of the net for the Buffaloes, while Lucas Maia and Nimely Robertson both added an assist. Dan Ball made the start and stopped four shots for Milligan, as Jonathan Colson and Robertson tallied five and four attempts toward goal, respectively.

The Bobcats hit the ground running in the first half, putting the pressure on early with nine shots in the opening 27 minutes while forcing four saves by Ball. Wright would net the breakthrough in the opening moments of the 31st minute, getting on the end of a free kick by Cureton and nodding the finish into the far corner to give the Bobcats an early 1-0 lead.

Milligan would equalize midway through the 53rd minute, leveling proceedings at 1-1 when Torok headed home a quick corner from Maia. The Buffaloes continued to push forward over the next few minutes, forcing a trio of saves by Rusling on Colson to keep the match deadlocked.

The Bobcats regained the advantage in the 65th minute, when Gillespie converted from the penalty spot with a blast inside the far post to give Lees-McRae a 2-1 lead. Wright nearly doubled the advantage to 3-1 in the 72nd minute, sending a blistering effort just high of the bar from the top of the penalty area.

Milligan's Ryan Reilly was denied a glorious equalizing chance in the 77th minute, taking the ball on the volley and unleashing a blast from the top of the box, only to have his effort cut out by the Bobcat backline. The Buffaloes would knot the score at 2-2 less than a minute later, drawing level on Olivier's volley off a cross from Robertson.

Lees-McRae's Marvyn Rieger (Frankfurt, Germany) came inches away from a late winner in the 82nd minute, nodding a header just wide of the post before Wright's 90th minute effort was turned away by the Milligan defense to force extra time.

The Bobcats continued to push forward in search of a winner in the first extra time period, nearly netting the decisive strike in the 100th minute on an effort by Wright that skirted inches wide of the woodwork. Lees-McRae's fortunes would quickly turn seconds later, when the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot for the Bobcats' second penalty of the contest.

Wright did little to add to the suspense, sending a blast past the keeper's outstretched hand for his second of the match and a 3-2 Bobcats victory.

Lees-McRae returns to the pitch on Saturday when the Bobcats travel to Mount Olive, N.C. to close out their Conference Carolinas regular season schedule with a 6 p.m. matchup against Mount Olive College.

- LMC -