MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The phrase “wait ‘til next year” becomes particularly difficult to hear when the thoughts of all that might’ve been also get factored into the equation.
Unfortunately, the stinging disappointment that the combination produces is what the University of Rio Grande men’s soccer team is going to have to live with until the start of the 2013 campaign.
Head coach Scott Morrissey’s squad snapped a scoreless tie with just over 19 minutes remaining in regulation, but failed to hang on down the stretch as Hannibal-LaGrange (Mo.) College rallied for a 2-1 double-overtime victory over the fourth-seeded RedStorm, Monday afternoon, in the second round of the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Tournament at the Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex.
With the win, the Trojans (16-4) advance to face either Science & Arts or Belhaven in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round.
Rio Grande, which was making its 12th consecutive national tourney appearance, finished its season at 16-3-1 with the loss.
“Once again, we were our own worst enemy in terms of taking care of the game and finishing it,” said Morrissey. “We had all kinds of chances, we just didn’t finish. On the big stage, you need big performances out of your big players and, unfortunately, it didn’t happen for us.”
The RedStorm enjoyed a whopping 30-11 edge in shots, including a 12-5 advantage in shots on goal. Rio also had 15 of the 18 corner kicks in the match.
“I thought we controlled the game early on, but then we let them get back in it the last 20 minutes of the half,” Morrissey said. “We did a better job in the second half but, particularly in the final 10 minutes, the number of missed chances we had was staggering.”
Rio Grande grabbed a 1-0 lead with 19:16 remaining in the match when sophomore forward Caio Cruz scored from just outside the 18-yard box off an assist from senior forward Richard Isberner.
That’s how things stayed until Hannibal-LaGrange’s Joao Junqueira headed a shot past Rio senior goal keeper Jack Marchant for the game-tying marker with 6:51 left to play. Mikel Erdozain got the assist on the play, getting an open look at the net after Rio Grande senior defender Mike Burney slipped and fell to the turf.
Neither team scored in the remainder of regulation – or in the first extra session – but the Trojans netted the game-winner just over a minute into the second overtime period.
Cruz was whistled for a foul against HLC’s Jose Vidal at the 101:08 mark and Vidal’s subsequent free kick glanced off the back of Victor Alvarez’s head and past Marchant for the deciding score.
“The way that they scored both of their goals - those kind of things happen. That’s the game,” said Morrissey. “It was all of the stuff that happened in between that got us beat.”
Marchant finished with three saves in the loss for the RedStorm, while Logan Miller stopped 11 Rio shots for the Trojans.
Monday’s loss marked the final appearance in a Rio Grande uniform for Isberner, Marchant, Burney, midfielder Oliver Hewitt-Fisher, defender Brandon Tyler, forward Rafael Maccauro and defender Brodie Steigerwald.
“It’s very disappointing when you think about the kind of team that we have and everything that might have been,” Morrissey added. “But we’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves.”