Ft. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Saint Leo men’s soccer team (6-8-0, 2-5-0 SSC) dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to the Nova Southeastern University Sharks (8-9-0, 3-5-0 SSC), Saturday evening from the NSU Soccer Complex.
The Sunshine State Conference battle started out in favor of NSU as they posted a pair of goals in the first 46 minutes of play. However, Bruce Cutler and the rest of the Lions stood against the initial Nova wave of attack, answering with a pair of goal in seven-minute span of the second half. Saint Leo dominated on both sides of the ball for the majority of the second half. However, the NSU offense, led by Craig Heenighan, found a chink in the Lions’ armor in the 83rd-minute, scoring the go-ahead and eventual game-winner.
The first half was controlled mostly by the pressing Nova Southeastern offense. The Sharks used their persistence on the offensive end to break through with the game-opening goal in the 19th-minute. In total, Nova doubled up the Lions in shots taken, 10-5, and kept Lions starting goalkeeper Jake Hirst on his toes for most of the first 45 minutes. Still, Hirst and the Lions maintained their composure as he made three saves and kept the Sharks to a 1-0 lead entering halftime.
Unfortunately, NSU made the score 2-0 early in the second half. However, the 46th-minute goal seemed to light a fire under the Lions’ brass as Cutler, who was set up on the left edge of the 18-yard box, received a cross from Jesper Otterstedt. Cutler settled the ball down to his foot and ripped a shot past the Sharks’ ‘keeper, cutting the lead in half at the 52 minute mark. Cutler wasted no time in tying the game at two goals apiece in the 59th-minute, as he connected on his ninth career penalty kick.
The Lions continued to pressure Sharks’ ‘keeper Lyle Howe for the remainder of the game, blasting 17 shots total, eight of which were on goal. However, aside from the two Cutler goals, Howe made six saves and kept NSU in the game until the 82nd-minute when the Sharks’ offense found its mark again. Craig Heenighan proved to be the difference as his second goal of the night put the Lions in a 3-2 hole which they could not escape from.
Still, the offense continued the mount pressure on Howe until the very final seconds. It was not enough though as the Sharks squeaked past the Saint Leo with a one goal victory and kept Saint Leo at six points in the Sunshine State Conference standings.
The Green & Gold outshot the Sharks 22-17 and held an 8-3 advantage in corner kicks. The game was also very physical as the two teams combined for 34 total fouls and two yellow cautions.
The Lions return to SSC action on Thursday, October 29 for a showdown with conference rival the University of Tampa. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. from UT.