Penalty kicks were the bearer of bad news for John Carroll University Men’s soccer on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Regulation plus overtime was not enough for JCU and host Ohio Northern University in the Ohio Athletic Conference Championship game. Instead, it took five rounds of “PKs” to crown the Polar Bears the 2015 OAC Champions.
JCU was the squad in proper form early on. After the opening 40 minutes failed to yield a goal, junior forward Justin Miller got JCU out in front. A high cross for senior Karol Boryka was headed by Miller over the outstretched hands of Dean McNeil, the Polar Bears’ goalkeeper. Miller had his ninth goal of the year and the team’s first in the championship.
JCU took a 1-0 lead and the momentum lead into the locker rooms at half time.
In the 65th minute, sophomore midfielder Jesse Marinaro gave the Blue Streaks a much needed insurance tally. After senior Kevin Pachuta kept the ball in the attacking third for the Blue Streaks, Marinaro powered a shot into the lower corner of the Polar Bears net.
JCU would carry that 2-0 lead into the final 10 minutes of regulation. Ohio Northern would respond with two goals in the closing minutes.
A chaotic scene in the 18-yard box after a Polar Bear’s cross was deflected a number of times before the ball slipped into the John Carroll net. The 83rd minute goal was the first of the Polar Bears night, and it cut the Blue Streaks lead in half.
Ohio Northern would claw back into the game with just 57 seconds to play in regulation.
A high free kick from Austin Horton went deep in the box towards the far post of JCU’s goal. After the ball pin balled off a few bodies, David Janusz finished the job with a strike.
The Polar Bears scored two unanswered goals just 6:54 apart to force overtime.
No winning strike was to be had in the two overtime periods, setting the stage for a dramatic ending at the penalty dot.
Freshman goalkeeper Liam McIntosh made seven saves in the fixture before he manned the back line for the Blue Streaks in the decisive ending.
Marinaro, Pachuta and Miller all scored on their shoot out attempts, but senior Shaq Bridges had his shot saved by McNeil on a must-score attempt. The diving kick save ended the shoot out and gave Ohio Northern the OAC Championship title.
Officially, the game is marked as a tie. ONU finishes the regular season with mark of 17-4-1. Along with championship title, the Polar Bears earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
JCU finishes with a 14-4-2 record after the heartbreaking loss.
On Monday, the Blue Streaks received more disheartening news, as JCU failed to receive the invitation to the NCAA Tournament despite 14 or more wins for the third straight year. In 2013 and 2014 with 15-4-1 and 17-4-0 records respectively, the Blue and Gold also were denied a postseason berth.
After learning of the missed postseason berth, head coach Hector Marinaro reflected on the season that was.
“The players had an incredible run in the OAC tournament,” said Marinaro. “We played four games in eight days and we deserved much better than what we got. To lose in penalty kicks in the OAC final is heartbreaking but I am extremely proud of the team. It’s a horrible way for our seniors to go out but they gave us four tremendous years. I am truly honored to coach these young men.”
With the loss, the Blue Streaks lose eight seniors to graduation: Derek Jenkins, Jimmy Mattina, Shaq Bridges, Michael Melfi, Colin Curtis, Kevin Pachuta, Karol Borkya and CJ Tighe.