The top-seeded Oglethorpe men's soccer team made sure there was no mistaking how their SAA quarterfinal matchup against No. 8 seed Hendrix would unfold Saturday afternoon at the Oglethorpe Track and Field. The Stormy Petrels jumped all over the visiting Warriors from the opening whistle and romped to a 5-0 victory in the first round of the conference playoffs. The victory not only improved the Petrels to 7-5-3 on the season overall, it also advanced them to the SAA Championship semifinals on Friday against the winner of the matchup between No. 4 seed Centre and No. 5 seed Birmingham-Southern, set to take place late Saturday afternoon in Danville, Kentucky. As the top overall seed, the Petrels will host the final two rounds of the SAA Championship Friday and Sunday.
The Petrels controlled all of the action from the first minute of the contest, putting nearly constant pressure on the Hendrix goalkeeper. Though the game remained scoreless through the first 20 minutes, the Petrels fired 10 shots in that span.
They finally broke through in the 23rd minute, when junior midfielder Josh Hoeft got on the end of a pass down the right-hand side from freshman forward Alan Hernandez. Hoeft cut in toward the center of the box and fired a shot that beat Warrior goalkeeper Nathan Myers to his right, giving the Petrels a 1-0 lead.
They doubled the margin later in the half, when junior forward Will Keegan, who had just substituted into the game, took an excellent pass from senior midfielder Gustavo Martinez and finished it in the 37th minute.
The Petrels held a 2-0 lead at the halftime break, but the margin could've been much bigger, as Oglethorpe outshot Hendrix 23-0 over the course of the first half of play and took eight corner kicks to none for the Warriors.
Oglethorpe came out after halftime and finished what they started, though, continuing to lay siege to the Hendrix goal. They tallied a third goal in the 57th minute. Freshman forward Gabe Alvarez fired a shot from the right that beat Myers, but a Hendrix defender was able to clear it off the line. He cleared it up into the crossbar, however, and the ball bounced right into the path of Hernandez, who finished it for his first career goal.
The Petrels then removed any remaining doubt just two minutes later, when Alvarez sent in a low free kick from Myers's left that found the foot of freshman forward Hudson Fennell. Fennell redirected the ball into the goal for a commanding 4-0 lead.
Oglethorpe head coach Jon Akin was able to get his reserves some much-needed SAA Tournament experience after that, and they came through with another goal in the 87th minute. Sophomore forward Rodrigo Meade got on the end of a low cross from freshman midfielder Adam Sole to complete the scoring.
It served as an outstanding overall performance from the Petrels, who had defeated the same Hendrix team just 3-1 back in early October at the Oglethorpe Track and Field. That match featured a late game-clinching goal and an early 1-0 deficit for the Petrels.
For the game, Oglethorpe outshot Hendrix by a whopping 40-1, including a 13-1 margin in shots on goal. The Petrels took 14 corner kicks to their opponent's one, and held the vast majority of the possession over the course of the game.
"This was a very good performance from our group today," said Akin. "I'm proud of the 90-minute effort our entire team gave, as this was exactly the type of performance we were looking for. It was also good to get some of our guys who don't get a lot of playing time a significant run in an SAA Tournament game. Now it's on to next weekend! We look forward to playing for the conference championship in front of our home crowd!"
The Petrels will host the remaining two rounds of the SAA Championship at the Oglethorpe Track and Field next Friday and Sunday. They'll take on the winner of the 4 vs. 5 matchup between Centre and Birmingham-Southern on Friday in the semifinals.