DOMINIC HOSCHER | Reporter
In their second MIAA match of the season, the Lindenwood Lions looked to earn their first conference win against No. 17 ranked Northeastern State University.
After a late goal in regulation by the Lions to send the game to overtime, both teams saw the game play out to a 2-2 draw after two scoreless periods of overtime.
“It was just like any other game, we went onto the field and gave 100% on every ball and every chance we had,” junior Gaspar Alvarez said. “Today we were losing, but we managed to get a goal late in the game and going into overtime with injured players; I’m very happy, not with the score, but with the character we showed today.”
The first ten minutes were all RiverHawks, having multiple efforts go just wide of the post, including Joe Garcia’s 9:00 shot that just trickled past the bottom left corner. These missed chances would cost the visitors, as the Lions opened the scoring just a few minutes later.
Making his way down the right wing with ease, Joshua Scholl raced past defenders and sent a dangerous ball into the middle, and after a botched clearance by the RiverHawks defender, senior Thomas Hutcheson blasted his close-range effort into the top of the net to give Lindenwood an early 1-0 lead. It was Hutcheson’s fourth goal of the season, the most on the team.
After the opener, the hosts began to concede set piece after set piece, and this would finally cost the Lions with just under 23 minutes left in the half. Right outside of the box stood Garcia, Northeastern State’s highly active midfielder, who collected his much-deserved goal with a blast that went right past the wall and into the bottom corner. Garcia’s team-leading ninth goal of the season evened the game at 1-1, which would remain the scoreline going into the halftime break.
At the half, both teams were even across most of the stat-sheet, with the Lions having a 7-5 lead in terms of shots. While the RiverHawks got the last goal of the first half, Lindenwood was playing strong soccer on both ends of the pitch.
“We have a plan, and we have to stick to the game plan,” head coach Carl Hutter said. “Sometimes that game plan changes, so we changed our system of play a couple of times today, we changed some personnel, and they adjusted to it fine.”
The struggles in defending set pieces continued early on in the second half for the Lions. In the 52nd minute, Garcia whipped in a shot off of a corner that landed on the head of Trevor Reed, who headed in his third goal of the year and gave the RiverHawks a 2-1 advantage.
Lindenwood had a free kick chance of their own from the top of the box, which was sent inches over the crossbar by Fernando Cordero. Going into the last 26 minutes of the match, the Lions remained ahead in terms of shots at 9-6, but still trailed by one goal on the evening.
The Lions were getting closer and closer to finding an equalizer, with their next best chance coming at the 71-minute mark when Luke McBeth sent his shot into the side netting. Cordero kept the pressure on the RiverHawks, but Northeastern State keeper Thomas Salenbien saved his curled shot which came from outside the area.
The score would stay at 2-1 until the final 10 minutes of the game, when a familiar name stepped up yet again for the Lions: Alvarez. Hutcheson poked the ball through two Northeastern State defenders to send Alvarez through on the break, and he laced the ball past Salenbien, tying the game at 2-2. It was the third consecutive game in which Alvarez has found the back of the net.
“For a striker, once you get started on your streak of goals it gets easier,” Alvarez said. “For me, I’m confident and today I didn’t start but I knew that I was going to give something to the team.”
A highly contested regulation period ended on a missed opportunity off of a corner for the RiverHawks, sending the contest to overtime. Northeastern State was playing in their first overtime period of the season, while the Lions were in their third. Lindenwood won both of their previous games that went to overtime by scores of 3-2.
In an attempt to repeat history for the third time this season, the Lions played a rather conservative first 10 minutes of overtime. Both defenses held strong, giving the opposing attacks too little room to operate up front. Action wouldn’t pick up again until the second half of overtime.
With five minutes left in the match, the River Hawks had two attacks in rapid succession. The first involved Garcia one more, who cut the ball to his left and nearly beat Aleksa Nenadic, who made the game-saving stop diving to his right. A few moments later, Northeastern State almost got through again but were denied by the well-timed challenge of a Lions defender.
The late save and tackle would prove crucial for the Lions, as the game ended in a 2-2 draw. The results left the two teams with rather split emotions, content with the outcome but wanting more.
“I don’t think either team was going to risk losing the game, a conference game against a tough opponent,” Alvarez said. “They had a great record before this and just lost their first game last week, so I don’t think they want another loss and we didn’t want to lose in our field. So it’s not a win, but I’ll take a tie instead of a loss.”
It’s the first draw of the season for the River Hawks, and Lindenwood’s first since their season opener on Aug. 31 against Truman State. Now sitting at 3-3-2, the Lions will look to get back in the win column on Sunday when they host Southwest Baptist University.