MILWAUKEE – A pair of goals from Henrik Fennefoss helped the Milwaukee men's soccer team overcome an early deficit and claim a postseason-clinching 3-2 victory over UIC Friday night at Engelmann Stadium.
"Very proud … you know, I have been proud of them for a while now," head coach Kris Kelderman said. "We were under pressure the past three games and the guys have risen each time."
The Panthers (9-6-2, 3-3-2 Horizon League) came up big against the regular-season champion Flames (12-5-0, 6-2-0 Horizon League), using a quick response to get back into the contest and change momentum on the way to the important victory.
"We had a good game plan," Kelderman said. "Obviously, UIC is the top team in the conference and the guys did really well. We had some injuries tonight to some key people and had some injuries coming in. The reserves were outstanding. Not only did they get the job done but they made us better and got us some goals."
Milwaukee came into the night needing a victory to advance to the postseason and found itself trailing, 1-0, at the 51:28 mark. An immediate answer was found, with Fennefoss knotting the match just 32 seconds later after finishing a partially-saved shot from Joshua Kidder in front for his first goal of the season.
Just four minutes later, Josh Kaye came up big on his own "Senior Night", heading in a Tiahn Manuel corner kick to make it 2-1 at the 55:42 mark.
Fennefoss capped off his biggest outing of the season with the eventual game-winner in the 60th minute, finding a finish to Manuel's deflected shot in front, burying his second of the evening into the back of the net at the 59:42 mark.
The Flames battled back, making it a one-goal game again at 3-2 in the 68th minute, but the MKE defense buckled down and finished off the victory, snapping the Flames three-game winning streak in the process and sending the team into the Horizon League Tournament with the decision.
The night nearly started off on the wrong foot, but Kaye was there to save the day just 74 seconds in. Eduardo Garcia headed a corner kick into the open far post, but it was Kaye again, coming up huge when he found a way to clear the ball off the line and keep it scoreless.
The Panthers controlled possession and had eight of the 12 shots in the first half, yet found themselves in a scoreless battle until UIC struck first. With momentum in a must-win situation slipping away, Milwaukee pushed forward quickly, with Paulo Gratton finding Kidder in the box. He turned and fired, but the UIC goalkeeper was unable to corral it, with Fennefoss charging in and leveling the contest in a hurry.
Freddy Lorenzen finished it off late, coming up with clutch saves in the 81st and 86th minutes to close it out.
The Panthers ended up finishing the night with a 16-to-12 advantage in shots, including an 8-to-6 edge in shots on goal, while UIC did earn six of the 10 corner kicks. Kaye, Fennefoss and Shawn Azcueta each had a team-high three shots.
It was a fitting end to "Senior Night", as Kaye, Evan Conway and Ben Krolczyk all played in their final home game.
"The three seniors that have been absolutely awesome to the program; to be able to reward them in the last home game … I don't think it could have turned out any better," Kelderman said.
With the win, MKE jumped up to 11 points in the league table and flip-flopped over Cleveland State to grab the No. 6 seed and advance. The Panthers will head to Michigan Monday, taking on No. 3 Detroit Mercy in first-round action getting underway at 6 p.m. CST.