Tennessee Wesleyan College's Men's Soccer team traveled the short distance up the road to Dayton last night to play the #21 nationally ranked Bryan College. This was TWC's first conference game and it was to be a tough one. Bryan was coming off a five game winning streak which saw them steadily move up in the national poll, TWC on the other hand was still looking for their first win on the season.
With thunder in the air the game kicked off on time, but there was always the chance of stopping for safety reasons. Both teams started brightly, Bryan College had the first chance of the game. Their senior forward Ricky Angel latched onto a through ball, lifted it over the oncoming Josh Leader in the TWC goal only to see the ball hit the crossbar and bounce to safety. Then in the 10th minute TWC's John Carrier picked the ball up on the halfway line and began a mazy run that took him past four Bryan College defenders and from twenty yards out he lashed a right footed drive into the top right corner of the net. As soon as the ball hit the back a flash of lightning was seen and the referee stopped the game for a thirty minute lightning delay.
The delay came at just the wrong time for TWC who had the momentum. During the delay the Bryan College coaching staff fired the team up and when the players took the field to restart the game they were flying, everything they did was high tempo and it took TWC a little by surprise. For the next twenty five minutes Bryan College had all the momentum and TWC were on the back foot. They had a number of chances before the equalizer came, but when it did it came from an open header which would have upset the TWC coaching staff. The ball was crossed from the Bryan left and Daniel O'Kane headed the ball past Leader who could do nothing to stop it. This didn't stop Bryan's charging attack, they kept coming and TWC were having to battle to keep the ball out of the net.
Bryan finally took the lead from an error in the TWC net. In the 31st minute the ball again was crossed from the Bryan left, TWC's goalkeeper Josh Leader decided to punch a ball that in other conditions he would have caught with no problem. His punch hit one of the Bryan College forwards, bounced onto the bar and was headed in by a grateful Ricky Angel, this made the score Bryan College 2 TWC 1.
Still Bryan kept coming forward and kept creating chances. TWC's back four were bending, but not breaking. TWC still looked dangerous on the counter attack, John Carrier was a constant threat with his direct running. TWC won a corner on the Bryan left, it was expertly taken by John Carrier, there was a challenge on the keeper, he spilled it and there was a scramble in the six yard box. TWC's Martyn Freestone poked the ball over the line. Somehow TWC went into the half tied at 2-2.
The second half was a pulsating affair, it was like two heavyweights going toe to toe. Bryan had most of the possession in the half but still TWC looked dangerous on the counter. There were chances at both ends in the second half, TWC's back line was brilliant all night long. With three minutes left in game TWC's best opportunity to close out the game came off a corner, again there was a scramble in the box, TWC's Stefan Hatfield and Garrett Koon had a go at the ball, but couldn't connect and at full time the score was 2-2 and TWC were going into another overtime, their fourth of the season.
TWC had the best chances of the first overtime period, John Carrier had a guilt edge chance that went inches over the Bryan goal. The second overtime was just two very tired teams battling to try and grab the goal that would end the game, the goal never actually came and the score ended 2-2.
A lot of drawn soccer games are dour, boring affairs, this game had just about everything, goal line chances, tough tackles, great saves, chances and goals, it was an absolute credit to all the players involved and a shining example of why the Appalachian Athletic Conference is one of the best in the NAIA.
TWC's next game is another conference game this Saturday at 3pm, home against Montreat College who are ranked #44 in the nation.