SEATTLE – After playing to a scoreless draw through regulation and a pair of 10-minute overtime periods, Lipscomb men's soccer advanced past No. 25 Washington on penalty kicks, 5-4, Thursday night at Husky Soccer Field in Seattle to move on to the second round of the NCAA Championship.
"Awesome. Awesome, awesome," Lipscomb head coach Charles Morrow said. "It was an ugly game and definitely not the way we wanted it to play out, but our guys battled. I told the Pac-12 crew yesterday that one thing they might not know about this team is that we can surely play a beautiful game, but we can also win dirty. I think that is what it was tonight.
"Give credit Washington, they did an outstanding job of closing space and cutting the field. They are a good team."
In their second NCAA Tournament appearance in as many years, the Bisons win their first NCAA postseason match in program history. They are also just the ninth team in ASUN history to win a match in the tournament.
Lipscomb (9-9-1) and Washington (12-7-1) played through 110 minutes without conceding a goal in a strong defensive battle.
Goalkeeper Chris Zappia was the hero who got them to PKs. The senior played brilliantly in net, coming up with incredible stops time and time again. In one possession for the Huskies in the second half, Zappia took a barrage of shots from the box. Going in all directions, Zappia recorded four consecutive stops to keep the match scoreless.
"I am so happy for Chris. He was fantastic tonight and I thought it was one of the best night of his career," Morrow said. "Early in the season when we were going through a tough stretch, Chris would make all the saves he was supposed to make, but he just couldn't come up with a game-winner.
"Tonight, and at Louisville, and the second half of the season that has been a different story and great goalkeeping has turned our season around."
As the match headed to a shootout, Morrow went to Zappia and asked what he wanted to do in regards to the keeper position on the attempts with 6-foot-6 penalty specialist Luke Wilson on the sideline. Zappia responded – "let Luke do what he does." – referring to Wilson playing his first career minutes against NJIT in the ASUN semifinals a season ago and coming up with stops on all three of the Highlanders' penalty attempts.
Wilson proved the same hero Thursday night with a pair of saves. With Lipscomb leading 5-4 and the Huskies needing a make to extend the match, Wilson dove to his right and pushed away the attempt to send the Bisons to Sunday's second round. After getting to his feet, Wilson sprinted towards the corner of the field in celebration with his Bison teammates in tow.
"I don't know how he does it," Morrow said. "You would think it would be hard to sit there on the sideline for that long and then come in and perform well in a situation you had to win in order to keep the season alive. I couldn't be more proud of Luke's performance."
Lipscomb started off the PKs with a miss from Ryan Birchfield before making its next five attempts. The Huskies made each of their first four before Wilson's game-winning stop.
Following Birchfield's try, it was Logan Paynter, Austin Eager, Louis Robinson, Ben Locke and John Wynia who converted their attempts to get the victory.
The first half was more of a feeling-out period for teams who are not familiar with one another. The Bisons and Huskies combined for just six shots – only two of which were on target.
The second half was a different story as it was mostly all Washington. UW outshot the Bisons 10-3, put six on goal and won the corner kick battle 9-1 after halftime.
In the first OT period, freshman Ryan Dougherty nearly hit the game-winner after getting away from a defender in the box. His attempt was deflected just wide of the left post by a sliding defender at the last moment.
"I thought our tournament nerves showed early on, there were moments in the game as it went along that we were able to get our foot on the ball and create some good chances, but they were hard to come by, for both teams really," Morrow said.
- Lipscomb earned its first draw of the season, moving to 9-9-1 overall.
- The Bisons fail to put a shot on goal for the first time all season.
- The five total shots are also a season low for the Bisons. The previous low was seven.
- Lipscomb now has back-to-back shutouts after posting just one all of the regular season.
- Zappia's eight saves are a season high, but they finish one off his career high.
- Wilson's first save came on UW's fourth penalty attempt.
- Dougherty led the team with two shots. Paynter, Robinson and Daniel Zapata each tallied one.
- In total 15 players saw the pitch for the Purple and Gold.
- Lipscomb is the only mid-major program in the country to have both their men's and women's team still alive in the NCAA Tournament. They are one of only nine schools total to have both still playing.
The Bisons hop on a plane early Friday morning and head to Orlando, Florida where they will face No. 9 UCF in the second round on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.
"Scott Calabrese is a friend, he used to be at ETSU. I called him before we left Nashville and I told him I hoped we would see him this weekend, so I'm excited to get down. It will be another big challenge. All the teams are good from here on out. I don't think this group is backing down from anyone though."
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