A brilliant 30-yard strike from Chris Wellsman pushed men’s soccer into the second round of the OUA playoffs.
The second-year midfielder’s 105th-minute shot found the top corner of the Nipissing Lakers’ net, proving to be the game-winner at Miklas-McCarney Field on Wednesday night.
From that mark onwards, the Gaels’ defence was impenetrable, finishing the game with vigour to take the nail-biting win.
“It comes back down to which team really wanted it more and I really felt that the gentlemen in the Queen’s uniforms wanted to win this game a lot more than the Nipissing guys,” said Gaels head coach Christian Hoefler.
“It was a terrific finish by Wellsman, but I give credit to all the players that were on the pitch in that they maintained composure and stayed organized.”
Although the Gaels came out with tenacity, regular time saw some familiar patterns. Nipissing put the first score on the board on a dangerous counterattack in the ninth minute. Striker Brandon TeBrake smacked a shot into the top right corner of the goal off a scrambled play in the 18-yard box.
Hoefler said that while the Gaels maintained possession for the majority of the 90 minutes, the Lakers’ pace caught them off-guard.
“It came down to us just having a little bit of a lack in focus for a split second and they countered on us,” he said.
The Gaels weren’t to be quieted. After a few narrowly missed chances, third-year midfielder Andrew Martin skillfully put away an equalizing tally from the 20-yard mark in the 23rd minute.
Despite promising combination plays, Queen’s was unable to seal the deal in regular time. Thirty minutes of extra time saw very combative bits of play, especially from the Nipissing side. “They had nothing to lose, really — you could see that in their attitude when they were coming into tackles or distributing from the back to the attacking players,” Hoefler said.
After Wellsman’s ambitious blast, the Lakers had a chance to tie the game in the dying minutes of extra time with a set piece from 25 yards out. They were shut down by Gaels goalkeeper Max Materne, who made a skillful save to clinch the victory.
“Overtime does get a bit nerve-wracking, but we remained composed, stuck to our strategy and we ended up with the result,” Hoefler said.
“It’s about being consistent for the entire 90- or 120-minute match, and ensuring we follow our plan.”
The Gaels will now prepare for their next challenge — the OUA East quarterfinal match against the Toronto Varsity Blues on Sunday in Toronto. The last time the two teams faced off, the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
“Toronto is a respectable team — they definitely have some talent, and so we need to make sure we stick to our strategy and our plan,” Hoefler said.
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