Omaha men’s soccer completes comeback and moves to Summit League finals

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Jack Hoover
SPORTS EDITOR

Several players on a soccer field
Omaha soccer players fight to win a corner kick against Western Illinois. Photo courtesy of Matt Kirkle/the Gateway

During the Summit League regular season, the Western Illinois Leathernecks had a conference-best record of 4-1.

The only blemish on that near perfect record was against the Omaha Mavericks, as Western Illinois fell 3-1 to the Mavericks in the regular season. So with the two teams meeting up in the first round of the Summit League tournament, a chance at revenge was available to the Leathernecks.

Despite the Leathernecks’ hopes though, it would be the Mavericks who would assert their dominance over Western Illinois, as they came out in top in a thrilling 3-2 overtime win.

The action in the encounter got going in the 29th minute of the match, as sophomore Junior Noutoua worked his way into the Western Illinois box before back heeling a pass to junior Mitch Hammer. Hammer made no mistake with shot, as he rifled a low shot into the back on the net to give Omaha a 1-0 lead.

With the Mavericks still leading in the 40th minute of the game, it seemed like the match might get finished off for good. After a hard challenge was made on Omaha’s Seth Rinderknecht, Western Illinois’ Paul Kirdorf was sent off by the referee. With the Leathernecks now down a player and chasing the game, it seemed that there was no way back.

In spite of the odds though, Western Illinois’ “never say die” attitude shown through in the second half. Two goals from Western Illinois’ Daisuke Otsuka coming in the 55th and 74th minute of the game improbably turned the match around in favor of the Leathernecks.

Now it was Omaha’s turn to feel like the odds were against them. With the Mavericks now finding themselves trailing and with time winding down, the situation seemed desperate. Any prayers that Omaha had about getting back into the game were answered in the 78th minute though, as senior Marcos Bautista took advantage of confusion in the Western Illinois goal box to tap in an equalizing goal for the Mavericks and send the game to Overtime.

In what was already a roller-coaster ride of a game, there remained yet one final swing of emotions. Senior defender Pep Mateu took matters into his own hand early in the first period of overtime, as he got on the end of a well hit cross from Hammer. That goal would end the game there and then. The Mavericks walked out as 3-2 winners.

Thanks to the comeback win against Western Illinois, Omaha will play in the Summit League championship on Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. against the host Denver Pioneers. The meeting between the Mavericks and the Pioneers will be the fourth straight time the two teams have met up in the finals.

The match can be streamed online at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/summit/ or listened to live on Mavradio.fm.

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