Wingate, N.C. – For the second time in a week, a penalty kick shootout ended in celebration for the No. 17-ranked Lander men's soccer team. The third-seeded Bearcats upset 13th-ranked and second-seeded Wingate 1-1 (5-4 in PKs), ending the defending national champions' season and giving Lander its first berth in the NCAA Southeast Regional championship since 2013.
"Just incredibly proud of my team," said head coach Lee Squires. "To play two matches in three days, not many teams can get out of that. We utilized our squad, which was fantastic that everybody bought in. It wasn't necessarily pretty, it wasn't our most free-flowing football, but we found a way."
Wingate's first scoring opportunity came at the 13:59 mark as Filipe Checco fired a free kick at the crossbar that Dean Cowdroy tipped over the net, one of his two saves in the opening half. The Bearcats would dodge danger once again in the 44th minute when Cowdroy corralled a free kick from Jon Ander following a foul just beyond the box. The Bearcats managed shots from Robbie Young and Daniel Sonnerstedt in the first stanza, but could not find the back of the net.
Defensively, Lander withstood five Bulldog corner kicks in the first 45 minutes of play.
Wingate struck for the first goal of the match at the 55:11 mark in the second half as the Bulldogs were awarded a penalty kick following a handball call against Lander inside the box. Ander slipped the shot inside the left post to put Wingate ahead 1-0.
Lander threatend in the 74th minute when Jordan Skelton sent a deep pass into that corner. Oliver Brock won the ball and crossed a pass to the far post for Robbie Young, but the ball was tipped and pinned against the post, giving the Wingate defense enough time to clear the ball out.
The Bearcats cracked the Bulldog defense in the 76th minute after earning their first corner kick of the afternoon. Brock delivered a ball that found George Knight, who headed it home for his second goal of the regional. The assist was Brock's 12th of the year.
Lander had a chance to pull ahead six minutes later when a Brock corner kick was headed in front of the goal by Knight. Sia Jamedar's ensuing shot was covered up by Pablo Jara to keep the match tied.
The Bearcats outshot the Bulldogs 9-8 on the day, while holding Wingate without a corner kick in the second half and recording four of their own. Cowdroy and Jara each tallied four saves.
After a pair of scoreless overtime sessions, the Bearcats faced penalty kicks for the second time in three matches. Just like the Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship match, Lander was flawless from the penalty spot. Skelton, Richard Bryan, Brock, Jamedar and Ian Foulger each netted their attempts before Aleksander Holboe dove to his right and blocked Elliot Cutts' shot to put the Bearcats in the Southeast Regional championship match.
Lander will face PBC foe Young Harris in the championship. The team's played to a 1-1 draw at Young Harris during the regular season.