Big win for FHSU soccer
Published on -9/21/2012, 10:27 AM
By KLINT SPILLER
When Fort Hays State University senior forward Tomas Mares touched the ball inside the penalty box in the second overtime against No. 20 Northeastern State University, he knew he had to take a shot at the goal.
Once Mares' half volley flew past Northeast State's goalkeeper and into the net, his team exploded in jubilation after winning 3-2, resulting in a mad dash to congratulate him and pile on top of him in front of FHSU's bench.
"Priceless. I was ecstatic," Mares said, describing the moment. "The last 20 or 30 minutes of the game, we gave it all we had. After I put that goal in, I had to celebrate with the whole team. With all the effort we put in, it was amazing."
FHSU, ranked No. 15 in NCAA Division II, improved to 6-1 and 2-0 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association with the win Thursday at the FHSU Soccer Stadium.
Mares' game-winning goal might have been the most significant goal in the program's young history. It sealed the program's first victory against a ranked opponent. It also should keep FHSU at the top of the NCAA Division II Central Region, above Northeastern State (4-2, 1-1 MIAA) and Lindenwood University (4-1-2, 1-0-1), and in the driver's seat for a national playoff berth.
"It's better to be there now than to have to claw up," said FHSU coach Brett Parker.
However, the second-year head coach was quick to temper the moment. After all, it's early in the season, and the Tigers didn't play that well against Northeastern State, especially in the second half.
Northeastern State had 25 shots to FHSU's 11. The Riverhawks also had 10 shots on goal to FHSU's six in the match.
"I don't think we necessarily played like the No. 1 team for 90 minutes today -- or 102 minutes," Parker said.
The Tigers started strong, taking a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute. Mares attacked from the right side and received a pass in transition from sophomore midfielder Tanner Brock, and Mares buried it in the left side of the goal.
In the second half, it was all Northeastern State early. The Riverhawks dominated the possession and managed to take the lead, scoring goals in the 56th and 78th minutes.
Junior midfielder Juan Gonzalez tied the match on a pass from sophomore midfielder Jordan Schmoker. Junior midfielder Edgar Gonzaga put his team up, as he got the ball off a deflected shot and scored over the fallen goalkeeper.
"In the second half, whether it was the adjustments they made or tired legs, they came out and absolutely put it to us," Parker said.
The Tigers responded immediately.
With fewer than 13 minutes remaining, FHSU pressed and attempted to score the equalizer. It came five and a half minutes later, as freshman Michael Cole received a cross from Brock and headed the ball into the right side of the goal.
"We started the second half very slow, but we had to fight through it and fight through it," Mares said. "We have it inside of us, but we just have to bring it every time. It was pretty intense."
Then Mares provided the game-winner just a minute into the second overtime period on a pass from sophomore defender Carlos Linares.
"(Northeastern State) probably deserved the win on the day, but it's a weird game like that," Parker said. "You can have grit and character and come out on top."
Mares said he knows it will be a tough stretch from here on out, especially with a match Oct. 18 at Northeastern State. With the Tigers at the top of the conference and regional rankings, he said every team will attempt to unseat them.
"We've got to keep working every day," Mares said. "I know when we go to Northeastern, they are going to try to do the same thing to us.
"We've got to keep our feet on the ground and keep working every day," Mares added. "We can't take this game for granted and think we can go into their house and beat them. It's going to be tough, because every team is going to be looking to beat us."