Johnson City, Tenn. - The second-seeded Stetson men's soccer team (10-5-4) and sixth-seeded host ETSU (10-6-4) battled to an epic 3-3 draw after 110 minutes and double overtime in Friday night's A-Sun tournament semifinal at Summers-Taylor Stadium, but it was the defending champion Buccaneers who got the better of the ensuing penalty kick shootout, taking a 5-4 edge on penalties to eliminate the Hatters and advance to the finals Sunday against FGCU. Sophomore defender JJ Bostic (Dunedin, Fla.) and senior forward Joakim Helland (Bergen, Norway) scored goals for Stetson in regulation.
Bostic and Helland gave Stetson a quick 2-0 lead with goals in the fourth and seventh minutes as the Hatters looked to be well on their way to a third consecutive A-Sun tournament finals appearance. Junior defender Luis Ocejo (Mexico City, Mexico), the 2011 A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year, and senior midfielder Gonzalo de Mujica (Buenos Aires, Argentina) assisted on Bostic's goal. Helland drove a 25-yard free kick into the upper left corner for his score.
ETSU began its comeback with Frank Doumbe's 23rd minute goal but the Hatters retained a 2-1 edge at halftime. Shortly after the intermission the Bucs tied the score on David Geno's goal (assisted by Aaron Schoenfeld and Nate Hodges) in the 49th minute.
The final few minutes of regulation were a rollercoaster as Geno scored again in the 88th minute off an Itode Fubara pass to seemingly seal the comeback win for the home team, but with just 43 seconds left in regulation, Stetson's A-Sun Player of the Year junior midfielder Jonathan Mendoza (Bogota, Colombia) sent a cross into the box that deflected off defender Jaron Westbrook and into the net for the equalizing goal.
Both teams had scoring chances throughout the two extra sessions, including a shot off the post by senior forward Ryan Asare-Bediako (Tampa, Fla.) but ultimately it would be penalty kicks that decided the outcome.
Aaron Coulter remained in net for ETSU while Stetson switched for the shootout from sophomore Andreas Schnabl (Blaichach, Germany) to senior Dan Billman (Troy, Mo.) Schnabl finished the match with six saves while Coulter had three. Both did an outstanding job in the shootout, denying three of the five shots they faced in the regulation round. Coulter saved what would have been a walkoff winner by de Mujica in Round 5 to force matching single kicks. Junior midfielder Kai Eckenrode (Springfield, Va.) and freshman forward Elias Beates (Winter Park, Fla.) scored for Stetson in the first segment.
ETSU scored on all three of its chances in the matching rounds; while sophomore Carrington Hogan (Clearwater, Fla.) and Helland kept Stetson alive with scores in Rounds 6 and 7, the end came when Jonny Campbell scored for ETSU in Round 9 and Coulter followed with a stop on Asare-Bediako's effort to vault the Bucs into the finals.
The Hatters end their season unbeaten in their final 10 matches, a streak they will carry over into 2012 as likely one of the longest active lossless runs in NCAA Division I men's soccer.
FACEBOOK - Stetson Athletics (facebook.com/stetsonhatters); TWITTER - @StetsonSID (twitter.com/stetsonsid)