Sixteen Seconds Between Men’s Soccer and A-10 Semi-Final

Lucas Hauth ‘22 made a critical goal for the Wildcats that had conference semi-finals written all over it. Photo courtesy of Tim Cowie/DavidsonPhotos.com.

Max Pearson ‘22

Men’s soccer correspondent 

Davidson entered the Atlantic 10 Tournament as the second seed. After a strong regular season, the team finished just 3 points behind top-seeded VCU. The Wildcats had an unbeaten start to the season, losing for the first time against Fordham in a closely contested game at Alumni Stadium. George Mason was the only other team to beat the Wildcats in the A-10, when they edged out a 1-0 win, also at Alumni Stadium. The key to Davidson’s success this season was their away form, which saw them go 3-0-1 on the road in the A-10. 

Tournament play is known for cagey affairs and low scoring nail-biters. The A-10 quarter final between the Davidson Wildcats and the Dayton Flyers was no different. It took just two minutes for the first yellow card to be shown, when ‘Cats keeper Sawyer Gaffney ’20 was penalized for throwing the ball away. Jordan Hill ’19 failed to take the first real scoring chance of the game, when he leapt above the Flyers defense to meet a Henry Howell ’22 corner but could not direct the ball toward the goal. A succession of three bookings followed, two for the Flyers and one for Davidson, to even out the yellow cards at two each. Quinn Dudek ’21 and Jackson Bracy ’22 were each presented with half chances but failed to convert. Before the end of the first period, Gaffney was called into action for the first time, when he reacted brilliantly to deny the Flyers. A low shot from close range forced the ‘Cats keeper down to his left side, where he managed to palm it away to safety.

Davidson continued to dominate the match throughout the second half, and the best opportunities all fell to a Wildcat cleat in front of the Flyers goal. Jaylen Thompson ’20 and Lucas Hauth ’22 had two chances each, a series of low hard shots that all narrowly missed the upright. The Flyers gave up a foul just outside their own 18-yard box, much to the disappointment of their coach, who received a yellow card for dissent. The resulting free-kick deflected out for a corner. Howell took the corner, and placed it onto the forehead of Hill, who directed it back across the face of the goal for Hauth to finish into the bottom left corner. The celebrations from both the crowd and the players would have lead you to believe it was a winning goal, and until the 89th minute it looked like it would be.

With only sixteen seconds left to play, the Wildcats gifted the Flyers a free-kick central to the goal, around 20 yards out. The free-kick was fired through the ‘Cats wall and cannoned off the left post, breaking Davidson hearts as the ball flew past Gaffney’s outstretched hand and into the back of the net. 

During the ensuing madness and celebrations, a bizarre red card was issued to the Flyers’ Jonas Fjeldberg. In winning the free-kick that would turn out to equal the match, Fjeldberg had been treated by the team’s trainer and had to leave the field as a result. In these circumstances, the player can only return once instructed to by the referee. Fjeldberg entered play on his own accord, and received a second, disqualifying yellow card as a result. 

Entering golden goal overtime, the game looked to be anyone’s. Davidson had been severely winded by the late equalizing goal, and although momentum was with the Flyers they were down to ten men after the red card. The first half of overtime saw very few opportunities for either team, both unwilling to give the other team a chance to score. More chances came in the second half. Heading into the last minute, penalties looked likely. Unfortunately, with 49 seconds left to play, the Flyers won another free kick, this time out on the right side of the field. The ball was delivered into the six-yard box, and Davidson failed to deal with it, allowing a Flyers attacker to place the ball high into Davidson’s goal to win the game. 

The Wildcats can take consolation from the post-game stats, which showed that for the large majority of the game they were the better team, and arguably deserved to progress to the semi-finals. Goalscorer Lucas Hauth ‘22 commented on the ‘Cats performance, saying, “The game was tight, but in the second half, I believe we hit a rhythm and momentum swung our way. Putting the loss aside, we looked very dangerous in the attack and had some very sharp moments in the final third. Overall, I thought we deserved more.”

The team can consider the season a great success with a very young team. Hauth also reflected on the season after the game. “I see this season as a huge success personally and as a team. Finishing second in the A-10 really was a manifestation of the work we put in this entire season and the hours we spent off the field recovering and prepping as well. Personally, being able to contribute as a first-year was exciting.” 

This year, Davidson exceeded their greatest points total since joining the A-10 and finished higher in the table than ever before. The hopes for next season are high, and although they graduate an experienced senior class, the returners paired with incoming first-years will make a formidable team. Hauth said, “I think this was a great season for us, and I think we have a promising future. I’m lucky to be part of a special class of guys, and I believe next season will hold even more success for the team.” 

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