LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- The Bellevue University men's soccer team scored first before an unfortunate deflection forced overtime where the Bruins fell 2-1 to #20 Georgia Gwinnett College on Saturday evening in the Association of Independent Institutions' Championship Match at the Grizzly Soccer Complex.
#20 Georgia Gwinnett: 12-3-3
Recap: #20 Georgia Gwinnett 2, Bellevue 1 (OT)
Playing with their season on the line, Bellevue came out swinging as the Bruins turned in one of their best performances of the season before ultimately falling just short against Georgia Gwinnett.
The action started early as a first minute corner kick for Georgia Gwinnett saw two Grizzlies step over the pass to allow Sagi Hirsch a shot but his attempt was corralled by Bellevue goalkeeper Harry Wray.
It appeared the Grizzlies had a golden opportunity to score in the 15th minute after a through ball found an attacker screaming in towards goal, but Finlay Bloodworth came up with an excellent recovery tackle that prevented GGC from even getting a shot off.
BU saw their best chance to score in the first half come in the 19th minute. After an initial attempt on goal was parried away, Kortlan Franke unleashed a screamer that a Grizzly defender took square to the face but managed to keep it out of the net.
After a physical but entertaining first half delivered a 0-0 scoreline at the break, Inaki Aldao put Bellevue on the board in the 53rd minute. After winning a free kick from the near sideline around 40 yards out, Toby Millward delivered a set piece into the box that Aldao headed back across goal to stake the Bruins to a 1-0 advantage.
Alfredo Rivera delivered the equalizer for Georgia Gwinnett in the 77th minute. After winning a free kick, following a yellow card, Rivera cracked a shot from 25 yards that deflected off the BU wall and into the corner of the goal to bring the game level.
Bellevue had a last gasp effort in the 89th minute after a GGC turnover left the ball at the feet of Juvenal Jacinto but Matija Gligorovic made the stop to preserve the tie in regulation.
The first, and only, scoring chance in overtime belonged to the Grizzlies. After beating a Bruin defender, Krishna Clarke found himself one-on-one with Wray and beat the BU keeper to score the Golden Goal victory for the host side.
The Bruins did well to keep A.I.I. Player of the Year Toni Tiente off the scoresheet, although Tiente did have two chances that he should have taken. The first came in the 35th minute when he settled a cross but took one too many touches that allowed Wray get off the ground to stop. The second came in the 56th minute on an aerial cross but his attempt with his thigh deflected off the post.
With the victory, Georgia Gwinnett secures the A.I.I.'s lone automatic bid into the NAIA National Tournament.
Coach Mark Heath-Preston:
"We were the best team with the best chances. Both teams were very direct and I felt that we had the edge regardless of what the shot count was. We had better chances inside the box."
"Harry Wray made some great saves and Inaki Aldao was superb up top. We have shown that we can not just compete but beat anyone and with only one player graduating we will be back stronger and more focused next year."
"I would like to give a big thanks to Finlay Bloodworth and all the team as well as the women's team who stayed out to support us."
Man of the Match:
Inaki Aldao – Scored Bellevue's goal and served as a terrific target at the top of the Bruins' formation.