Jerry McBride/Durango Herald
Regis, undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Division II men’s soccer, was looking for a nice, easy coronation to cap the regular season.
Fort Lewis College, which had been in that position before, was determined to drop the Rangers down a peg or two.
It was by no means easy, but mission accomplished for the Rangers.
The Regis men’s soccer team captured an unblemished Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title and an undefeated regular season with a 2-1 comeback victory over the defending national champions Sunday at Dirks Field.
Chippy play and a first-half FLC lead restored a bit of the familiar Dirks Field roar Sunday, one that dwindled over the course of the year as the Skyhawks finished under .500 at home (2-3-2).
Derek Freeman’s goal on a loose ball off a free kick in the 27th minute drew the loudest ovation and put the Skyhawks up 1-0 over a powerful Regis side.
But the Rangers stole the show and swiped the victory after halftime. Michael Sheehan’s header off a Justin Ortinau free kick pulled Regis (16-0-1, 14-0-0 RMAC) even in the 51st minute.
The Rangers put themselves ahead for the first time on a gorgeous play in transition. The play ended with Ortinau, streaking down the right sideline, lofting a beautiful ball on to the head of Mark Kelly, who didn’t break stride and didn’t miss from point-blank range.
“He had some space, and unfortunately I got caught ball-watching I think. ... He got on the end of it, put it away, nice finish,” Freeman said of the second goal.
FLC (9-7-2, 6-6-2 RMAC) went back to the same starting lineup it employed in Friday’s 5-0 win over Colorado Christian, rewarding Andy Hoffman’s strong effort at forward on Senior Day with another crack at it Sunday, and he played well again, narrowly missing on a couple of scoring opportunities.
The lineup worked to the tune of a 19-11 shot advantage for the Skyhawks, although it didn’t translate on the scoreline the way they would have liked it to. Hoffman had six shots, while Yannis Becker was active, tallying five – two on goal.
“We’ve created opportunities, but unfortunately we made some mistakes on the defensive end that let them back in the game,” FLC head coach Oige Kennedy said.
It was a physical affair, as well, reminiscent of the first matchup in which FLC lost Aaron Kloer and Alberto Capdepon to red cards. Five yellow cards were handed out, three to FLC, and Regis lost defender Jordan Spring to an apparent shoulder injury in the second half.
While FLC looks as though it’ll be on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament, there’s still an opportunity to grab some hardware this season. The Skyhawks will open the RMAC Tournament on Wednesday as the No. 6 seed, and they’ll visit No. 3 Metro State at 2:30 p.m. in Denver, with the winner earning a semifinal matchup with Colorado Mines.
Still, that opportunity doesn’t wipe out the slightly sour taste of dropping a third and final game on Dirks Field, particularly for the seniors.
“Unfortunately it’s my last game here at the Fort on Dirks Field, which is kind of sad,” Freeman said.