Panthers Headed To NCAA Tournament After 2-0 Win Over #23 UIC
Nov. 17, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill. - Following a venue change and a four-hour delay due to the heavy rainstorms in the Chicago area, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee men's soccer team finally got its chance to play UIC for the Horizon League Tournament Championship Sunday night.
It was worth the wait.
Senior Andrew Stone headed in the game-winner in the 51st minute and sophomore Declan Rodriguez added a second goal in the 67th minute to give the Panthers (15-2-2) a thrilling 2-0 victory over the 23rd-ranked Flames (16-4-0). The win sends Milwaukee to the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time in program history.
"It's a great moment. I love my team. I don't know how else to put it," UWM head coach Kris Kelderman said. "They worked hard all year and we talked about getting here. We deserved to be here and we deserved this victory tonight, so I couldn't be any more proud of my team."
The game was supposed to be played at UIC's Flames Field, but the day of heavy rain made the flooded field unplayable. The contest was moved to Lakeside Field at Northwestern University, with the rain letting up for most of the match, but the teams having to deal with swirling winds that were gusting to over 40 miles per hour.
"It was a long day," Kelderman said. "It was a long weekend. Playing two games in 24 hours is not easy on these guys, but they are a group of winners. It took a lot of patience, belief in each other and a lot of hard work today."
The weather played a large role in the game staying scoreless until after intermission, as balls that were kicked or headed in the air were toyed with by the swirling winds.
The Panthers finally broke through at the 50:28 mark, with Stone snapping a header into the net off a corner kick from junior Luke Goodnetter to open the scoring. Stone, a leader of the defense, scored for the second time in two league tournament games after scoring just once during the regular season. In fact, Stone was named Horizon League Tournament MVP for his efforts.
"Any time you score in a championship match you are going to feel good," Kelderman said. "We just had to keep plugging away. You never know with the elements, the environment - anything can happen. The guys hung in there. Offensively we did pretty well and we did what we had to do defensively."
Goodnetter was at it again to set up the second goal, sending a long free kick - over 40 yards - to the far post for Rodriguez to head in and make it 2-0 at the 66:08 mark. The goal was an ominous one for the Flames - the Panthers were 11-0 coming into the match this season when they scored at least twice.
Goodnetter was everywhere on the night, adding a pair of assists to land himself on the Horizon League All-Tournament Team. He was joined by the MVP Stone, junior Laurie Bell and senior Aaron Cranfill.
Lost in all of the celebration was the defense, which posted a pair of shutouts on the weekend and ended the Flames 10-game winning streak in the process. Freshman Liam Anderson made four saves - including a pretty one in the 88th minute to preserve the shutout - to record his 10th shutout of the season to tie the school record.
The Panthers had a pair of quality chances to extend the lead, but Andrew Putna was up to the task each time. Junior Rami Younes tried to chip one over a charging Putna in the 54th minute, but he got enough of it to keep it out of the net. In the 57th minute, senior Robbie Boyd did well to create space for himself and sent a rocket from the wing, but again, the nice stop was made.
A scoreless first half featured a couple of decent chances for each side, with Milwaukee recording seven of the 12 shots in the period. Stone nearly put the Panthers on the scoreboard in the 25th minute, but his header off a corner kick missed to the left by a few feet.
Senior James Ashcroft had two shots in the first, including one in the 43rd minute on a nice build-up. Rodriguez carried the ball down the field, sending a pass to Boyd. Boyd set up Ashcroft with a nice back pass, but the shot attempt went high by a few feet.
UIC's first real chance came off a through ball in the 22nd minute, but Anderson was there for an easy save. The other close call came in the 44th minute, but Slobodan Aleksov could not put the close-range volley on target.
For the night, Milwaukee finished with the 13-to-8 advantage in shots and 6-to-1 margin in corner kicks.
The NCAA Selection Show is at 11 a.m. Monday and will be streamed on NCAA.com. The Panthers will be joining as a team to watch the event and see who they will be playing and where they will be headed.
"It feels very good," Kelderman said. "And it feels good because we are not here by chance. We have a good, talented group ... guys that have worked hard and deserve to be here."
The viewing party will be in room 148 of the Pavilion, the classroom of the Athletic Department offices suite. It will be open to any media that would like to cover the event.