Harrisonburg, Va.--In its first Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, the Georgia State men's soccer team battled back from a second-half deficit and upset the No. 3 seed William & Mary, 2-1, on Thursday night at the JMU Soccer Complex.
The poised Panthers (13-6-1) received two clutch goals from sophomores Stephen McGill and Evan Scott in the second half to earn the first CAA Tournament win in school history. It's also the first postseason win for the Panthers since 2004. Head coach Brett Surrency and GSU advance to face the No. 18-ranked team in the nation, and the second seed in the CAA Tournament, Old Dominion on Friday (5 p.m.).
"I credit the guys, going down a goal didn't really faze the guys," Surrency said, "The boys battled back and got two goals and here we stand."
McGill started the comeback after he took a touch and deked around a defender from just inside 40 yards away from the net. The sophomore reared back and smashed a right-footed strike from a slight angle from 30 yards out that found the back of the net past diving goalkeeper Colin Smolinsky. McGill's drive in the 65th minute just inside the left post knotted the game at one goal apiece.
"Eric [Lawrence] made a heads up play and I passed the defender and I figured I would give it a go and was fortunate enough to have it go in," McGill said, "I think it picked everybody's heads up and gave us the extra momentum to go and get the winner from there."
GSU's intensity immediately jumped up after McGill's rocket found the net. Sophomore Michael Nwiloh nearly gave the Panthers the lead, but Smolinsky made a timely challenge to ward off the dangerous attack in the 67th minute. Nearly 10 minutes later, the Panthers earned a corner and freshman Bo Stroup delivered a perfect ball from the left flag towards the opposite post. Scott took to the air seeking yet another header goal off a corner kick. He found Stroup's cross and labeled it for the net at the 76:24 mark and GSU had the lead at 2-1 over the Tribe (10-9, 7-4).
It was Scott's ninth goal of the season, but one of the only ones not to be followed by his patented backflip celebration. The sophomore later cited chilly temperatures (Mid-40's at game time) and a hard surface for not risking his trademark celebration.
"On every corner kick I want the ball and I just jumped and headed in the ball," Scott said.
As expected, the game was airtight on defense in the first half of a matchup that featured the top two defensive teams in the CAA. GSU and William & Mary, No. 29 in NCAA RPI rankings, traded chances as McGill and freshman Jordan Weise each had good opportunities denied in the first half.
GSU goalkeeper Vincent Foermer was once again solid in net for GSU. The junior stopped two shots and cleared several other dangerous passes to earn the victory. Foermer came within inches of stopping the penalty kick goal off the foot of William & Mary senior Nicolas Abrigo in the 50th minute. The Seevetal, Germany native guessed correctly and dove to his right, getting a good piece of the ball but not enough to completely stop it. The goalkeeper smacked the grass in frustration after conceding the goal, but the Panthers weren't discouraged for long after.
"I thought our guys were up for the challenge. Beating [William & Mary] earlier in the year meant we did have confidence coming into the game and I think that showed," Surrency said, "For the majority of the game we played some really nice soccer and we were unfortunate to go down a goal, but as I said before the guys rallied around it."
The Panthers now look to avenge a regular-season loss to Old Dominion in a semifinal matchup tomorrow. Georgia State fell 3-2 in overtime after scoring two goals in the final three minutes to rally and tie the game in Norfolk, Va. After notching its first-ever tournament victory, the Panthers are anything but content heading into tomorrow's matchup.
"I think the win was huge," McGill said, "Obviously our goal was to make the conference tournament. We check that off and we want to keep going as far as we can, but we're also hoping to get into the NCAA Tournament and seeing where we can go there."
"We have a really tough game against Old Dominion tomorrow night," Surrency said, "They'll be a little bit fresher than we will, but we'll find a way and be ready to play."
GSU held a 15-10 advantage in shots and a 6-4 lead in corner kicks in the match.
Check www.GeorgiaStateSports.com and visit CAA Tournament Central to follow all of the lead up and action at the 2011 CAA Tournament. Live audio as well as live stats and a live blog will be available tomorrow for GSU's semifinal matchup against the Monarchs.