Kissimmee, Florida- Fifteen seconds. That was all the time the Covenant College men's soccer team had remaining in their season as they found themselves down 3-2 to Mount Vernon Nazarene with just a quarter of a minute left to play in their opening match of the NCCAA National Tournament. An inkling of hope, though, laid at the foot of Julian Allgeier, who prepared to take a direct free kick at the top of the box for what surely was the Scot's final chance of the game. If he scored he was the hero. If he missed, Covenant in all likelihood would go on to be eliminated in the first round of the NCCAA National Tournament. "I looked up at the clock and realized it was now or never, " Allgeier said, "I remained calm and put the shot on target. When it went in I couldn't believe it. Words can't describe how excited I was at the moment." Indeed, Allgeier was the clutch factor, and his goal was the final piece in Covenant's comeback from a 3-1 halftime deficit. Junior David Pifer had gotten the game off to a bright start for the Scots, scoring in just the second minute off a Colby Robbins' assist. Mount Vernon responded just two minutes later, though, via a Covenant own goal, and would take the lead later in the half off a well-struck twenty yard shot that blazed beyond the reach of goalkeeper John Eger's outstretched arms. When the Cougars scored their third off a corner kick before the stroke of halftime, Covenant's chances for victory had dwindled significantly. But, at a time when many teams would have been resigned to defeat, the Scots harnessed enough strength to mount the improbable comeback. "I asked them at half time if they wanted it," said senior Ryan Yackel, "We needed to forget the first half and come out with some passion." So, leaving the first half behind in their memories, and realizing that a semi-final birth was within reach, the Scots stormed out early in the second half, with Hunt Davidson's long clearance finding Allgeier breaking free behind the Cougar defense. The forward duffed his first attempt, but maintained his composure to turn three Mount Vernon defenders en-route to curling the ball side netting for a 3-2 scoreline. Down just one goal, the Covenant defense held strong and kept the Scots within a single score of drawing the game. And, when Allgeier's aforementioned free kick soared in during the last fifteen seconds, Covenant sent the game into overtime. "Once we went into overtime I had no doubt that we were going to win," said goalscorer David Pifer after the game, "We had experience in this situation after beating King in golden goal overtime to make it here, and anytime a team surrenders a lead like Mount Vernon had just done, it's very tough to gain the momentum back." Momentum would in fact be key, as the Scots stormed out of the gates early in the overtime period to earn a penalty kick. David Pifer, having received a ball from
Colby Robbins on the left side, rounded the Cougar defense, but was hacked down in the box as he moved towards goal. Allgeier, having already proven himself a clutch player just moments before, then stepped up to the spot and smashed the ball beyond the keeper's reach for the third time in the game and reeled off to the sideline in celebration. It was a comeback with the storyline and drama of something you would see on ESPN Classic, and it allowed the Scots passage into the semifinals, where they would be facing Indiana Wesleyan University, the defending champs.
IWU proved to be a different animal for the Scots, though. Although not as technically skilled as the Mount Vernon team that Covenant had faced the day before, Wesleyan was experienced and hard-working. Early on, the game went back and forth, with both teams creating several chances on goal. For the Scots, Hunt Davidson had a header cleared off the line, and Julian Allgeier went close after beating a defender at the near post. Even with a majority of possession, the Scots were unable to take the lead and went into halftime tied at 0-0. In the second half, Wesleyan continued to work hard, and their efforts paid off when they scored on the thirty-five minute mark after the Covenant defense failed to deal with a cross. Afterwards, IWU was able to endure a period of dominant Covenant possession as the Scots sought to equalize. The Scot's efforts were not aided, though, when the referee awarded senior Ford Quarterman a red card, and the team was forced to play a man down for the remainder of the game. Even with the card, Covenant still had several chances, with David Pifer narrowly missing on two occasions from just outside the box. It was IWU, though, who scored again, capping off their solid performance with a game-clinching goal just six minutes before time. "The better team won today," said Coach Nathan Pifer after the game, "They wanted it more and they've got the experience of being here before. Hopefully the younger guys can learn from this experience, and from the example that the great seniors on this team have set, and come back here next year and win this thing." The Scots will now finish up their season in the third place match against Mid-American Christian on Saturday.