If there was ever a game you could describe as a gut punch, this is it. The NC State men’s soccer team did just about everything it could to beat Coastal Carolina, but in the end no matter how many times it hit the bar, no matter how many times junior midfielder David Loera weaved magic with his feet, no matter how many times the ball seemed destined for the back of the net, one mistake and the season is over in the blink of an eye.
“Tough right?” said head coach George Kiefer. “If you look at the players they’re gutted. There was definitely enough chances to win the game. I think we hit the post or crossbar twice, the keeper made some excellent saves off of the deflected balls, made excellent saves off one on ones. And, you know, they hung around. They had some weapons up top for sure that the can hurt you going the other way.”
The Wolfpack was the better team on the night; despite outshooting the Chanticleers 18-11 and hitting the bar twice, a misplaced ball in the midfield from junior midfielder George Asomani gave Coastal Carolina’s Tyrone Mondi the chance he needed to end it in overtime.
Mondi picked up the ball off of Asomani’s mistake and drove at the Woflpack’s backline, with the Wolfpack having been in possession just moments before, the road was clear for Mondi to march on the Pack’s goal. Sophomore midfielder Aidan Foster, who was filling in at center back due to injuries to junior David Norris and freshman Kendall Edwards, did his best to get back and block it, and he came within inches of doing so, but as everything seemed to on the night, the narrow margins went against the Pack.
“Losing Norris and then Kenny, Kendall Edwards came off right before the overtime as well so now we have Pablo [Pedregosa] and Aidan back there,” Kiefer said. “Which you know it's a shifted back three, it hurt us but I still think if you ask every player, you know, ‘could we have won this match?’ I think they would say yes. So that's something that we really have to look at in the offseason.”
The Wolfpack started the game well, taking the lead in the 22nd minute after peppering the Coastal Carolina goal for the opening 20 minutes. Loera, after being denied a wonder goal by an even better save just moments before, broke the deadlock when a loose ball fell to him in the middle of the box and he placed it into the bottom corner.
The Wolfpack continued to pound the Chanticleers’ goal but thanks to Alberto Ciroi’s six saves and the crossbar denying Loera twice, it was Coastal Carolina who would score the next two goals.
Both coming from set pieces and against the run of play, the Chanticleers scored directly from a freekick in the 37th minute to tie it and Kasper Skraep nodded him a crossed free kick in the 64th to take the lead.
The lead only lasted 10 minutes however as Loera brought things back level in the 74th minute. Junior midfielder Brad Sweeney played a long ball into the box which sophomore forward Kuda Muskwe nodded on, found Loera in the box for the Wolfpack second goal. The Chanticleers vehemently argued that Loera was offside on the play, but the ref waved them off.
Loera did just about everything he could to drag his team towards a win in the game, with redshirt senior goalkeeper Vinnie Durand describing the “phenomenal” performance as, “per usual” for the star midfielder. Loera scored both his team’s goals, taking six shots, three of which were on target and another two hit the crossbar.
“David is excellent…,” Kiefer said. “Everything he touched tonight looked dangerous. You know I think David will make a very good pro and I think I need to help him with that.”
While Ciroi pulled off the spectacular in the Chanticleers’ net and really stole this show, Durand was quietly solid for the Wolfpack, as he has been all season. Making fives saves on the 11 shots he faced, Durand played well for the Wolfpack and was not to blame for any of Coastal’s goals.
While this was far from the ideal way to end a season, there are positives to be had that when you look at the season as a whole. This is a young team with talent throughout and it will be interesting to see where Kiefer takes this program in the seasons to come.