The Ashland University men's soccer team held off a quality Northwood squad for more than 60 minutes, maintaining a 2-1 lead well into the second half, but the Timberwolves came out with a 4-2 win over the Eagles on a scorching Sunday (Sept. 24) afternoon at Ferguson Field.
"We started off well and built a lead going into halftime," said AU head coach Oliver Slawson. "We created the better of the chances, but we just didn't put enough of them in. We did everything we needed to do to win the game and put it away, but unfortunately we were not able to do that."
The Eagles (4-3, 0-3 GLIAC) came on the attack straight from the opening kickoff and got on the board in the sixth minute. Sophomore Justin Kowalski had his shot saved by NU keeper Corbin Cecchini, but freshman Caleb Whitaker pounced on the rebound and delivered a low strike into the back of the net for his first career goal.
The game was wide open with both teams getting chances in the first half. Northwood, the 2015 GLIAC champion and NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 qualifier, equalized in the 28th minute as Josh Wates scored on a long cross from James Vaughan on the right side.
Just seven minutes later, the Eagles had the lead again on a marvelous goal. Kowalski, played a ball wide for sophomore right back Zach Hillman, who sent in a high arcing cross that clanged off the inside of the far post and bounced into the goal. It was Hillman's first career marker.
"We need to put the ball into dangerous areas and play the percentages," said Slawson. "That's exactly what he did there."
The Eagles continued to apply pressure in the Northwood end in the second half, but were not able to score the goal that would provide a two-goal margin. In the 63rd minute, freshman Justin Libertowski's shot was saved by Cecchini, and the rebound came to Whitaker's head, but a Northwood defender just got his head on the ball at the goal line to save a sure goal.
Moments later, the Timberwolves (4-2-2, 2-0-1 GLIAC) won a free kick just a yard outside Ashland's penalty area and Vaughan hit a low ball inside the right post to tie the game at 2.
Three minutes later, Northwood snagged a 3-2 lead as junior keeper Ameer Mubarak made a terrific diving save of Nino Evola's shot, deflecting it off the post, but the rebound fell to Jared Suddon, who tapped in the go-ahead goal.
Again the Eagles continued to force the ball into dangerous areas as they pushed to equalize. In the 74th minute, freshman Yusuke Yasumasu, playing in his first collegiate game, made a run down the right wing and appeared to be brought down by a Northwood defender, but appeals for a penalty were left unanswered.
In the 77th minute, a free ball came out to sophomore Liam Duncan, who drove a low shot from 15 yards, but it was denied by the woodwork.
"Northwood is an experienced team with postseason appearances and we battled them," Slawson said. "It's unfortunate we didn't get the result."
Ashland held a 5-4 edge in corner kicks for the game and Mubarak made seven saves in goal for the host.
The Eagles continue GLIAC play on Friday (Sept. 29) when they travel to No. 13 Saginaw Valley State for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff.