The Oglethorpe men's soccer team saw their season come to an abrupt end Friday night at the Oglethorpe Track and Field, as they fell to No. 4 seed Centre 4-1 in the SAA Championship semifinals. As the top seed in the tournament, the Petrels had home-field advantage throughout, but the visiting Colonels used a first-half goal against the run of play and two goals off of free kicks in the second half to build a 3-0 lead that proved too much for the Stormy Petrels to overcome. Oglethorpe finishes the season 7-6-3 overall, and Friday's defeat was their first to an SAA team all season.
The Petrels outshot the Colonels 18-8 over the course of the contest and by five in each half. Centre proved more efficient at putting shots on target, but Oglethorpe still held an 8-6 advantage in that category. They enjoyed the run of play in the opening 20 minutes of the contest, outshooting Centre 4-0 over that stretch and forcing Colonel goalkeeper Bailey Spade to make a pair of saves to keep the game scoreless.
However, Centre's Phil Shehan broke through on a long run down the middle and scored on his team's first shot of the game in the 25th minute. The Petrels forced Spade to make another save later in the half and fired four more shots in his direction, but trailed 1-0 at halftime.
The home team continued to push for the equalizer in the second half, but a pair of Centre free kicks did them in. The Colonels tallied goals in the 51st and 68th minutes off of set pieces and suddenly had an almost insurmountable 3-0 advantage.
The Petrels did give it a go, continuing to attack the Colonel goal for 10 shots in the period, putting five of them on target. They gave themselves a chance to work their way back into the contest in the 78th minute, when freshman forward Hudson Fennell took a pass from sophomore forward Jose Perez and slammed it off the inside of the far post and into the net, making the score 3-1 with just over 12 minutes left.
However, Centre shut down any thoughts of an Oglethorpe comeback in the 86th minute with a long shot from outside the box. Junior goalkeeper Luke Whelan found himself off his line after coming out to make a save on a previous shot. He did all he could to get back, and even got a fingertip to the Centre shot, but couldn't keep it out of the net.
Sophomore midfielder Topher Marshall fired seven shots on the night and put two of them on target. Freshman forward Gabe Alvarez fired three shots of his own. Whelan finished the game with a pair of saves. Senior defender Micah Akin earned a spot on the SAA All-Tournament Team for his effort.
Each team took four corner kicks, while Centre committed 17 fouls to Oglethorpe's nine.
"This was obviously a very tough way for our season to end," said Oglethorpe head coach Jon Akin. "Centre's a good defensive team, but we had a bunch of chances that we just couldn't put away, while they took advantage of the chances they had. Sometimes, that's just how it goes in soccer. We accomplished a lot this season, winning our second straight conference regular season title and finishing undefeated in the league for the first time. We'll get back on the recruiting trail and come back to make another run at the conference title next year!"