The Ashland University men's soccer team overcame an early 2-0 deficit against No. 16 Saginaw Valley State to tie the Cardinals, 2-2, on Friday (Oct. 26) afternoon in the regular season finale at Ferguson Field.
With the draw, the Eagles clinched the No. 6 seed in the GLIAC Tournament and will travel to No. 3-seed Purdue Northwest for the first round. Kickoff will be at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
"We showed tremendous character and desire to get something from the game," said AU head coach Oliver Slawson, who takes Ashland to its first postseason since being reinstated in 2016. "Being 0-2 down against a nationally-ranked team and conference regular season champion, finishing 2-2 from where we were after 15 minutes, it's a positive result."
The Cardinals (9-1-6, 7-1-4 GLIAC) scored in the eighth and 10th minutes to take a quick 2-0 lead over the Eagles (5-9-3, 4-6-2 GLIAC). Alex Gloshen scored the first and Azaad Liadi scored his third goal against Ashland this season with a header for the second goal.
"SVSU are a good team with dangerous players in attack," Slawson said. "When you have a crazy six minutes like we did, they'll punish you."
After that initial burst by the GLIAC regular season champions, the Eagles matched the challenge, and for much of the game, were the better side.
AU cut the lead in half in the 32nd minute as sophomore Justin Libertowski applied pressure to one of SVSU's center backs and forced a back pass to the keeper. Libertowski kept his motor going, stole the ball off the keeper and rolled the ball into an open net for his ninth goal of the season.
Libertowski finished the regular season one goal off the GLIAC-leading pace of Northern Michigan's Sam Popp.
The Cardinals took their 2-1 lead into halftime, but the Eagles continued to possess the ball into the second half and looked dangerous going forward.
Their pressure paid off in the 67th minute as a ball played from the back arrived to Libertowski in the box as he shielded off a defender. He then laid off a perfect pass to freshman Haruki Kimura, who struck a ball from the right side of the box just inside the near post for his first career goal and the equalizer.
The Eagles out-shot the Cardinals, 9-4, in the second half, and the visitors held a 16-12 advantage in shots overall.
"That's two games this season we've taken them to overtime," Slawson said. "It's a big compliment to our players and program and shows the type of people we have involved. If we clean some things up and continue to be a real threat going forward, I'm looking forward to seeing where we can go in the postseason."
The game went to double-overtime, but Ashland's defense held off the Cardinals, facing six shots in the last 20 minutes.
Sophomore keeper Dimitrius Karousos made nine saves to keep the game at 2-2 for the final 100 minutes. Lukas Betz had five saves for Saginaw Valley.