CHICAGO, Ill. – Freddy Lorenzen made eight saves on the night and two more in the penalty-kick shootout to send the Milwaukee men's soccer team past UIC following a scoreless draw Thursday night in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals at Flames Field.
"Extremely proud of our guys," head coach Kris Kelderman said. "That was a very hard, tough fight tonight and we had our hands full. UIC is a very good team – very technical, very quick and I am not hesitant to say that they had the better of the match. It's tough to have a winner on PK's at this stage of the season, but thank God, we were on the winning end. Proud of the guys and looking forward to the final."
The Panthers (10-6-3) put together a brilliant defensive performance against the Flames (12-5-1), getting past the top-seeded hosts – who came in ranked No. 7 in the United Soccer Coaches North Regional poll – for the second time in less than a week.
Lorenzen posted his league-leading seventh shutout of the season with big save after big save over the course of regulation and was the star of the shootout as well.
"Freddy was absolutely outstanding tonight," Kelderman said. "He made two awesome saves to keep us in the game and, obviously, the PK saves in the shootout were unbelievable. At the end of the day, he made sure we won the game today. A lot of credit goes to Freddy. He picked the biggest game of the season to have his biggest performance. And that is what big-time winners do and I couldn't be more proud of him."
After Josh Kaye put Milwaukee up 1-0, Lorenzen went to his right to stop the first UIC attempt for the early lead. Ben Krolczyk then buried his attempt, setting the stage for another Lorenzen PK stop to make it 2-0 after two rounds.
Amazingly enough, he didn't need any help on the winner. Vuk Latinovich put his team up 3-0 with an easy make and then the game concluded when the third attempt from the Flames clanged off the left post and back into play to set off the on-field celebration.
Milwaukee advances to its first Horizon League Championship contest since 2013 and is the first No. 6 seed to top a No. 1 seed in the semifinals in five years.
"The one thing we emphasized coming into this game – knowing the strength of their team, how good they are and playing on their home field – is that we had to stay in the game and fight," Kelderman said. "Be hard to play against defensively and emphasize team defense. And the longer we stayed in the game; we gave ourselves a chance to get a result. We got out-shot, but the guys hung and fought. That's one thing we have had over the past eight games that stands out to me – the passion to fight for each other and being hard to play against."
Neither team generated many chances in the overtime periods, with the Panthers clearing one last push out of the goal front in the closing seconds of the second overtime to force the PK shootout.
Lorenzen came up with two outstanding saves in the final stages of regulation. He ran out on a breakaway chance, getting just enough of his leg on it to prevent the first goal of the night in the 78th minute on a shot by Horizon League Offensive Player of the Year Bar Hazut.
He also one-armed a save to push a volley from the top of the 18 wide at the 83:10 mark.
The Panthers had a couple of cracks at a winner late. Evan Conway had a look in the box in the 89th minute, but couldn't get the attempt past the back line. He also took a backheel pass from Henrik Fennefoss and had that one blocked in the 80th minute. Latinovich took the rebound and created some space, whizzing one just wide of the left post as play rolled on.
Lorenzen played aggressively throughout the second half, even leaving the box on a handful of occasions to run down or clear balls out of danger. The back four played very well in front of him as well.
UIC carried large portions of possession throughout the evening, ending the first half with a 12-to-2 advantage in shots. The MKE defense did well to limit the damage, forcing all but three attempts off target, with Lorenzen accounting for that trio of saves before intermission.
One of them was a beauty, making a diving save to the post on a 25-yard free kick by UIC in 32nd minute. He also got a hand on and pushed a hard shot from the wing off the crossbar with under 30 seconds remaining before intermission.
UIC finished the contest with a commanding 26-to-7 advantage in shots, which included an 8-to-1 count in shots on goal as well as 12 of the 13 corner kicks. Latinovich and Conway led the team with a pair of shots each.
The shutout was also the 20th of Lorenzen's career, moving him into second place all-time in program history behind Chris Dadaian's (1999-2002) school record of 21.
The Panthers move on to play in Saturday's title game, scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. at Flames Field. The team will take on No. 5 Wright State, which handled No. 2 Oakland easily, cruising into the championship with a 4-0 victory.