The Ashland University men's soccer team scored three goals in the second half to overcome a 2-1 deficit and beat a 10-man Davenport squad, 4-2, on Thursday (Nov. 7) afternoon in the regular season finale at Ferguson Field.
The win for the Eagles (6-10-1, 6-7-1 GLIAC) ensured a sweep of two regular season games over the Panthers (9-7-1, 9-4-1 GLIAC), who came into the game two points behind Parkside for the GLIAC lead.
"It was a big boost of confidence, especially playing in the last home game for all the seniors," said senior Jordan Dees. "We came out and gave probably our best performance of the season. We looked good today."
"It's been a wild journey," said senior John Duldner. "We had a couple seniors, including me, that this is our last game on this field. The ability to come out with everyone putting in a good performance, I'm just happy that I had another chance to play a game on this field and win with my teammates."
The Panthers went down a man in the 11th minute as a shot by junior Justin Libertowski was saved by keeper Joshua Doupe, but the rebound came to junior Jackson Crawford, whose shot hit off the arm of Carson Brinks on the goal line.
The Eagles were able to be on the front foot for most of the game with the Panthers playing short-handed.
The hand ball led to a red card for Brinks and a penalty kick for Duldner, who converted from the spot for a 1-0 lead. It was Duldner's first goal of the season in his final game at Ferguson Field.
Even down to 10 men, the Panthers had a near immediate response, getting the ball into a dangerous area after a corner kick with a shot deflected just inside the box by the arm of an AU defender.
Evan Marquess scored from the spot to equalize less than two minutes after the opener.
The Panthers went ahead in the 32nd minute as Ryan Zietlow collected an Ashland clearance of a corner and drove a shot from 20 yards into the top left of Marshall Ney's goal.
Davenport took a 2-1 lead into halftime despite Ashland holding 59 percent possession in the opening 45 minutes.
The Eagles came out quickly in the second half on a frigid, blustery day in which the temperatures failed to reach the freezing mark.
In the 50th minute, the Eagles drew a foul about 23 yards from goal and Dees placed a perfect ball inside the near post to equalize. It was his second goal of the season.
"I've been practicing those a lot," said Dees. "I just hit it right. As soon as I hit it I knew it was in so it felt good to get one in the last game on the home field."
Ashland took the lead only four minutes later as junior Yusuke Yasumasu recovered a rebound from Duldner's shot and touched it in for his second goal of the season. Duldner now has a team-leading five assists.
The Eagles continued to apply pressure as the Panthers' chances dwindled as the game wore on.
Junior Justin Libertowski put the game away in the 86th minute with a great individual effort to create space and beat the keeper to his left post. He now has a team-high four goals.
"[Scoring four goals] is huge," said Duldner. "We know we've been struggling scoring some goals this year. Today was a huge boost in morale and team spirit. Hopefully on Monday we can come out and play the same way, if not better."
Redshirt-sophomore Marshall Ney made four saves to earn the win as the Eagles head into the GLIAC Tournament looking to repeat as champions from the same position they were in last season – the No. 6 seed.
"We know what we can do in the tournament," said Dees. "Today we proved that against a team that's near the top of the league. We know we can beat everybody and we want to defend that title."
The Eagles will not know their opponent in the conference tournament until the conclusion of the Saginaw Valley-Northwood game, which was postponed until Friday because of snow in Michigan. The GLIAC Tournament will open on Monday.