---Seth Eckerlin (20)
celebrates after scoring his first goal of the season four minutes into Friday's
semifinal match. Eckerlin's goal did not hold up as Dowling would net two
goals late to advance to the NCAA National Championship game.
Mike Anderson, NKU Sports Information
score | Photo gallery
TAMPA, Fla. – The
clock had to strike midnight eventually for the Northern Kentucky
University men's soccer team, and strike
it did in the 98th minute, when Lamine Traore netted his second
goal of the match to send Dowling to the national championship
game with a 2-1 overtime victory.
The Norse (16-3-4) set the tone
of the match on an early corner kick opportunity. Dustin Downey's
initial volley proved fruitless,
but when the clearance came back to him for a second try, he made
it count, finding Seth Eckerlin for a stunning header goal, Eckerlin's
first of the season, to take the lead just four minutes into the
"I've been waiting all season for that one and luckily it
came through in this game," Eckerlin said of the marker. "My
teammates gave me the confidence to put the ball in the net."
"Every day in practice I give Seth a hard time about not
being able to score," added Downey with a smile. "I sent
him a ball today and he put it in the back of the net, so I guess
Braden Bishop had a chance of his own just two minutes
later when he stole away a ball from Dowling goalkeeper Nemanja
However, with the defensive pressure on, his attempt at the open
net sailed high and kept the margin at one.
offensive opportunities consisted primarily of long service passes
in search of Traore's gifted boot. NKU's
defensive corps stayed strong to the task, though.
"We just had to keep [Traore] in front of us, stay in between
him and the goal, and not bite in so they could run at us. That's
game plan," said Tony Ray, who was a part of NKU's hard-working
back row. "I think we stuck to that plan for pretty much the
NKU got two more chances late in the first half,
the first coming in the 38th minute when Tommy Barrick got a header
shot off a free
kick opportunity which Veljovic turned aside. The loose ball was
sent across the goal mouth by the Norse, but no one could finish
Another came in the waning moments of the half on another
set piece. Mike Jonca served a free kick in to Steven Beattie for
one of his
five scoring attempts on the game, but, again, Dowling's netminder
was up to the task and fended off the NKU chance.
As the second
half came on, the Norse continued to pressure the attack, finding
a chance in the 70th minute when Ray, racing up
the right side on the attack, sent a low cross for Anthony Meyer,
but led the freshman a tad too far, and the Norse could not put
a shot in.
It was 10 minutes later when the Golden Lions (19-3)
would find the chink in NKU's armor. Vlad Milosavljevic found the
the left side and floated a pass ahead for Traore, being marked
well by the NKU defense. Dowling's leading scorer would not be
denied, though, reaching out his boot to just lift a shot from
left post to right, out of the reach of NKU goalkeeper Michael
Lavric to knot the score at one.
Beattie admired the talent on display. "We
kept him off the board for 80 minutes, and he stepped up and made
a play. You have to tip your cap to that."
The Norse redoubled
their efforts late when Eckerlin was taken down just outside the
penalty area in the 83rd minute to set up
another free kick opportunity for NKU. Jonca stepped up to send
the shot over the defensive wall, but pushed the ball too high
and over the frame.
goalkeeper Nemanja Veljovic made six saves to help the
Golden Lions advance.
Dowling responded in the 87th minute, getting
a deep pass to set up a one-on-one opportunity offensively. The
pass went wide to
Samba Treore, who's blast was just off the right post and wide,
maintaining the 1-1 draw through regulation time.
Having found a
chink in the NKU armor, Dowling continued to pressure, culminating
in an overtime play where Rob Miller won a 50-50 ball
in the midfield and sent a strong pass ahead to El Hadji Mbow.
The look was to Lamine Treore again, who took the cross and buried
a blast on the right side for his 26th goal of the season, and
the final one scored on the Norse in 2008.
After the game, head
coach John Basalyga explained that a second goal would have been
all the difference for his Norse.
is built around [defense], it's built around being organized
built around tenacity and just being in the
It's not unusual that we played as well as we did, we just didn't
take care of our chances when we had them early on.
to have finishers."
Beattie echoed the sentiments.
you score early, mentally, you're on a high, but then you start
you start looking at the clock. But when you
to this point, you have to score, you can't feel invincible."
the Norse take pride in their accomplishment, going deeper in the
NCAA Tournament than any NKU team before them.
"I don't think we could have gotten this far without Coach
pushing us," said Eckerlin, who will return for his senior season
in 2009. "He's made our hearts bigger than anyone, all season
he's been pushing us really hard."
"We've got a special program here, especially Coach Bas," said
Beattie, who set a single-season record with 21 goals in 2008. "Our
aim was, basically, to take it one step further than we did last
year. I'm just a sophomore here, but I've learned so much being
a part of this program."
"I knew if I came here I had a chance to make it to this
Downey, who completed his only season at NKU after transferring
from a defunct Western Kentucky squad. "I wanted to achieve
something this year, so my expectations were high coming here.
I was glad to be a part of it."
And Basalyga returns those
sentiments to his players.
kids came to NKU four years ago, and they took a chance on me,
high school coach. This athletic department took
chance hiring a guy like me, and it's really neat to see guys buy
into a program. It's a tribute to their heart, it's a tribute to
their passion for playing, and their desire to be at NKU."
next year, just as this year, the expectation will be to go one
we've set a good stepping stone here, and hopefully we can continue
to build on it."