GREENSBORO, N.C. – In one of the wildest games of the season, the UNCG men's soccer team suffered a heart-breaking 2-1 double overtime loss to Southern Conference rival Elon Saturday night at the UNCG Soccer Stadium. The loss guarantees the Spartans will not finish with a top-four seed in the league and will be on the road for the first round of the SoCon Tournament next weekend.
The contest saw 30 total shots and 18 corner kicks between the two teams in the wide-open affair. The game also saw both teams awarded penalty kicks with both goalkeepers making saves, going against the statistical average. Elon finally won the game in the 108th minute of action with just 2:21 left in the second overtime as Matt Wescoe scored off a corner kick. The victory improved Elon to 12-4-1 on the year and 5-2-0 in SoCon play keeping their title hopes alive, while the Spartans fell to 5-9-2 overall and 3-4-0 in league action.
"Obviously very disappointed tonight," head coach Justin Maullin said. "I am very proud of our players as they stuck to the game plan and we pinned Elon in during the first half. Elon made some adjustments in the second half and pinned us in as the game opened up back-and-forth. We missed a penalty and had chances to win it in overtime, but unfortunately the ball has not been bouncing our way in overtime this year."
The Spartans were the aggressors in the first half, holding a 9-4 edge in shots and a 6-4 lead in corner kicks against the Phoenix. UNCG had a couple of prime chances in the first half, including a goal disallowed due to an offside call in the 18th minute of play.
The Spartans took the game's first lead in the 42nd minute of action as senior forward Hakan Ilhan (Stuttgart, Germany/Univ. of Stuttgart) was pulled down just outside the 18-yard box setting up an UNCG free kick. Ilhan stepped forward and ripped a shot off the Elon wall that went past goalkeeper Nathan Dean for the 1-0 UNCG lead. The goal raised his team-leading total to seven on the season.
Senior goalkeeper Peyton Ford (Jamestown, N.C./Southwest Guilford) came up big in the 53rd minute of play as he stopped Jordan Smith on a bending shot from 18 yards out to keep the Spartan in the lead.
Elon looked ready to tie the game in the 67th minute as the nation's leading scorer, Chris Thomas, was pulled down in the box and awarded a penalty kick. Thomas, who entered the game 7-for-7 from the penalty spot, stepped up and ripped a shot low to the corner, but Ford was there to save the shot and keep UNCG in the lead.
Elon finally broke through in the 77th minute of action as it started to put the pressure on the Spartans. Gabe Latigue sent a long cross into the box where Thomas was able to beat his defender to the spot and head home his NCAA Division I leading 21st goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1.
UNCG weathered the storm and looked primed to re-take the lead in the 81st minute as Elon was called for a foul in the box, awarded the Spartans a penalty kick. With Ilhan out of the game and waiting at midfield to check in on a substitution, junior Oddur Gudmundsson (Reykjavik, Iceland/Breidholti) stepped up to the spot and struck a low shot that Dean was able to dive and punch out of harm's way to keep it a tie game.
Peyton Ford came up with another huge save in the 89th minute of action as he made a sprawling save on a shot by Archie Karpeh from 18-yards out to force the game into extra time. Both teams had minor chances in the overtime period before Elon was awarded a corner kick in the 108th minute. Daniel Lovitz sent the ball into the box where Wescoe was making a near post run before heading it into the back of the net for the game-winning goal.
Ford was stellar in goal for the Spartans despite the loss as he made six saves, many of them highlight-reel worthy in his final game at the UNCG Soccer Stadium. Dean posted five saves in the victory for the Phoenix who await the outcome of the SoCon's final game of the season between Wofford and the College of Charleston to determine the league champion and number one seed.
Prior to the game, the Spartans recognized their senior class with senior day festivities in Adam Shore (Summerfield, N.C./American Hebrew Academy), Ross Burki (Austin, Texas/Lake Travis), Jonathan Leonard (Greensboro, N.C./Grimsley), Peyton Ford (Jamestown, N.C./Southwest Guilford) and Hakan Ilhan (Stuttgart, Germany/Univ. of Stuttgart).