Down a man for just under 70 minutes, the Stetson men’s soccer team found a way to come back from a 2-1 deficit to earn a draw against Grand Canyon on Sunday night at the Athletic Training Center.
After receiving his second yellow card late in the first half, freshman Sebastian Contreras was sent off and the Hatters were forced to play 10 against 11 for the final minutes of the first frame, the entire second half, and both 10 minute overtime periods.
“It was good to see the mental toughness rise to the occasion,” Stetson head coach T. Logan Fleck said. “I think we could have folded the tents, but we actually kept playing, and finding a way. We even had a couple chances to put it away in the overtime. I was very impressed with our match intensity after we were down a man.”
Prior Contreras’s second Yellow, the Hatters were controlling the game with their possession. Led by senior Steven Saballos in midfield, Stetson was taking it to the Antelopes early, which led to a quick goal by freshman Gianluca Carbone.
Saballos fed a ball through the defense to a streaking Carbone in the 13th minute of action. The speedy freshman then simply gathered himself, and beat Grand Canyon goalkeeper Joshua Zehring to notch his first collegiate goal and give the Hatters the early advantage.
After losing a man the Hatters came out in the second half composed, and continued to act as the aggressor early on. Stetson continued to do what it does best; possess the ball.
“It was good to see that,” Fleck said of his team being able to keep possession while down a man. “Usually you [see teams] bunker in and our guys didn’t. We’ve been working on trying to get the ball switched. It was requiring us to make five, six, seven passes and control the rhythm. I thought Stevie Saballos was a 10+ tonight.”
Unfortunately a couple of mistakes within 20+ seconds of each other handed the advantage to Grand Canyon within the blink of an eye. Jose Rodriguez and Kyle Ciliento both scored in the 61st minute to give the Antelopes a 2-1 lead 15 minutes into the second half.
The Hatters weren’t close to giving up though. Stetson continued to attack while down a score and down a man. Finishing with seven shots and three corner kicks during the second half and overtime combined, the Hatters finally evened things back up in the 74th minute.
Junior JJ Lofthouse-Smith forced his way to the ball in the box, fired a shot that deflected off of a Grand Canyon defender, and hit landed on the foot of senior Chase Rodgers. Rodgers took one touch and fired it past Zehring to tie the game at 2-2.
Continuing to tire, and beginning to give way to Grand Canyon’s obvious advantage, the Hatters gave up a number of good chances to the Antelopes during the second half and overtime. Unfortunately for the ‘Lopes, senior Andreas Schnabl was in front of them and the goal on Sunday.
“Fantastic,” Fleck said of Schnabl’s play in the goal. “He’s been working really hard so far this season. He’s made some good saves [in other games], but tonight you saw why Andreas is one of the top goaltenders in the Atlantic Sun Conference.”
Schnabl finished the night with eight saves, and many that were tremendous stops. Late in the second overtime Grand Canyon stole a pass out of the back, and was on its way to steal the game from the Hatters, but Schnabl came up with a huge 1-v-1 save against an Antelope attacker to keep the game tied with just seconds on the clock.
And that’s how the match ended, tied 2-2.
Stetson moved to 1-1-1 on the season, while Grand Canyon is now 1-2-1. The Hatters will next head on the road for four straight matches, beginning with neutral games against Georgia Southern and Winthrop at the Mercer Tournament next weekend.