It took nearly an entire overtime period, after No. 10 Indiana Tech had to keep its composure in a chippy men's soccer match, but the Warriors advanced to the final of the NAIA National Championship opening round for the second straight season.
The Warriors, the top seed at their home field's pod, got a 2-1 victory Thursday over No. 4 seed Cardinal Stritch. Scotland native Ryan Steele buried the winner in the right corner of the net with 38 seconds left in the extra session, after a nifty touch from Noe Garcia.
“I didn't know what to do, it was all chaotic,” Steele said of the clincher. “I just went to my team and celebrated with them because we did this together. I didn't want to celebrate on my own, so I celebrated with everyone else.”
The Warriors (18-1-1) looked for much of the afternoon as if they would win in regulation. Tech sophomore Lucca Motta scored the match's first goal in the 20th minute, getting free in front of the net and posting his fourth goal of the season. He celebrated with a shimmy in front of the Indiana Tech student section.
The score remained 1-0 until late in the second half, when Wolves (13-2-1) senior Salvador Nunez passed to an open Pedro Diaz, who scored the equalizer. Tech goalie Jaume Salvado deflected the ball and kept it out of the back of the net, leading to some confusion as to whether it was actually a goal. The officials ruled it was, in the 74th minute.
Near the end of regulation, the Warriors got a break when Cardinal Stritch's Antonio De Castro received a second yellow card for saying something to a Tech player, allowing the Warriors to play 11 on 10.
The card was part of an ongoing dialogue between the teams that lasted most of the match. It came to a head midway through the overtime period when Wolves senior Jonathan Waldenstroem thought Tech's Maxwell Amoako had taken a dive and tried to pick him up from the ground under the arms. Amoako shoved Waldenstroem in return and received a yellow card.
Shortly after that tense moment, Garcia found Steele, who settled himself before booting the winner.
“We were going to be aggressive in overtime, because (Stritch) had 10 men,” third-year Tech coach John Dunn said. “It was go big or go home at that point. Noe gave a really intelligent touch to set up Ryan. And then (Ryan's) composureto just side-foot it, he could have went really hard through the ball, but he just side-footed it into the corner. It was a great finish.”
The Warriors, who lost 2-0 to the University of Mobile in the 2019 opening round final, can advance Saturday by defeating Cumberlands (12-5-2), which beat Bethel on Thursday.
“This is what we've prepared for since August,” said Dunn, whose team played four matches in the fall before taking a break from November until February. “It's been a long, long season playing in the springtime, having our championship in the spring. But this is massive for the program.”