The Goshen College men’s soccer team looked poised to advance to the conference final after going into halftime up a goal against semi-final opponent Grace College, but a jaw dropping bicycle-kick from five yards out shocked Goshen and eliminated them from the Crossroads League tournament 2-1 on Saturday at Grace College.The kick that ended the best GC men’s soccer season in over a decade played out as follows: Grace’s Damon Binkley sent a low cross into the box from the right side where Cody Boerema tried to capitalize from point blank range, but Johan Escalante dove to his right and saved the ball with his right arm. Despite the heroic effort from Escalante, the subsequent rebound bounced into the air behind Marcelo Talamas who leaped and connected his right foot to the ball to give the Lancers the lead with 90 seconds remaining.
Escalante saved 10 of Grace’s 24 shots in the match. All three of the Maple Leafs’ shots came in the first half while Grace’s goalkeeper Kurt Hamlin did not make a save. The Leafs got the scoring festivities started in the 34th-minute as first-year sensation Stuart Aeschliman stepped up after being granted a penalty kick and shot left under the diving Hamlin for his team-high 12th goal of the season. The last freshman to score in double digits for the Maple Leafs came back in 2005 when Cody Felton scored 10 goals.
The visiting team, though, got on the board first when Ollie Smith suffered a foul on the right side in the penalty area. The Smith mishap led to a penalty kick for Grace’s Colin Cape in the 62nd-minute. Cape took full advantage off the free boot as he fooled Escalante and sent the game-tying dagger into the back of the net.
Grace went on to seemingly dominate the remainder of the half, and the contest as a whole, as the Lancers finished the game with advantages of 24-3 in shots, 7-1 in corner kicks and 18-8 in free kicks before advancing their way into the CL Championship to be played his coming Saturday at Spring Arbor University.
The Maple Leafs close their season with 37 goals scored and 31 assists, their most since the 2009 team finished the year with 39 in each category. The Goshen defense finished their season with eight clean sheets, the most in a regular season since the conference expanded to eight schools and instituted a tournament in 1994.
Post-season awards such as Crossroads League all-conference, Academic All-District, All-American and NAIA Scholar-Athlete honors will be announced following the conclusion of the conference tournament.