HUNTINGTON, W. VA. ---
The University of New Mexico men's soccer team earned its way to the Conference USA Semifinals on Wednesday afternoon after a thrilling game went through double overtime to penalty kicks. Redshirt-freshman Ford Parker
entered the game for the shootout and saved four penalty kicks to give the Lobos a 2-1 edge, knocking No. 17 Kentucky, the tournament's four-seed, out of the 2016 Conference USA Tournament.
The Lobos (10-6-2) entered the tournament as the fifth seed and will face nationally-ranked No. 5 Charlotte (12-2-2), the top-seeded team, on Friday, Nov. 11 at 2:30 p.m. (MT) in the semifinal round. The tied game marks the first time the Lobos have advanced in the Conference USA Tournament, though they still have yet to claim an official win in the Conference USA Tournament in Lobo history.
After 110 minutes of play that saw both squads notching two goals apiece, the two teams entered penalty kick competition where the Lobos lined up senior Chris Wehan
, senior Chris Gurule
, senior Josh Goss
, sophomore Aaron Herrera
and senior Niko Hansen
Penalty Kick Summary:
1 - Wehan's first fire was saved by Kentucky keeper on the left center followed by a save from Parker on the right side to end the first set of kicks.
2 - Gurule was the first to connect, scoring in the lower left corner before Hampus Agerstrom from Kentucky tied it up, 1-1 in the right side of the net.
3 - Goss notched the Lobos' second PK in the shootout to make it 2-1 before Parker collected his second save in the left center of the net.
4 - Herrera's shot was high, sailing over the goal followed by yet another Parker block to keep it 2-1.
5 - Hansen had the chance to put it away for UNM, but hit the crossbar, allowing Kentucky one more chance to tie it up. Parker came through once again, saving Noah Hutchins' ball on the left center.
In similar fashion to the first time the Lobos and the Wildcats faced off this season, Kentucky scored less than 10 minutes into the game (8:39) to put the Lobos down 1-0 early. The goal made Lobo fans nervous as UNM entered the game scoreless when their opponent scored first this season. In addition, UNM had earned just one victory over a ranked team this year after falling to four by just one goal.
The track record did not slow UNM down as the Lobos netted the equalizer just over four minutes later when junior Sam Gleadle
shot from the far side of the 18-yard box and hit the left corner of the net for his first goal of the season. Gleadle, who has scored just two goals in his career as a Lobo, was assisted by UNM's season goal-leader Hansen.
The teams went into halftime tied despite several close first-half chances and remained tied until there were just 10 minutes left to play in regulation.
In the 80th minute, Kentucky's Connor Probert scored his second goal of the season on a rebound to put the Wildcats back on top, 2-1 with less than 10 to play. With UNM trailing again and time running out, the Lobo energy was ignited. Senior Nick Rochowski
found the equalizer exactly three minutes later (83:38) to knot it back up, 2-2. Gleadle tallied his fifth assist of the season on the play.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net throughout 20 minutes of overtime en route to the shootout victory.
Overall the squads remained tightly matched throughout the contest with UNM outshooting Kentucky by just one, 10-9. Kentucky edged the Lobos in corner kicks 6-3 while the Lobos posted five shots on goal to just three for Kentucky.
In goal, junior Jason Beaulieu
earned the tie spending all 110 minutes between the posts. Beaulieu registered just one save behind the tough Lobo defensive line while Kentucky's Stuart Ford tallied three.
New Mexico will face No. 5 Charlotte on Friday, Nov. 11 at 2:30 p.m. in the Conference USA Tournament Semifinals. UNM fell to Charlotte by just one goal this season on Oct. 8 and looks to claim its third victory over a nationally-ranked opponent this season.