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Fort Lewis advances to RMAC finals with 4-0 win over UCCS

Skyhawks took advantage of UCCS red card in the second half
No. 10 Loic Jean-Baptiste, right, of Fort Lewis College celebrates his goal Sunday as University of Colorado Colorado Springs players react during the second round of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs at FLC. Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

Confetti was in the air after the Fort Lewis men’s soccer team punched its ticket to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament finals.

The Skyhawks dominated University Colorado Colorado Springs 4-0 in the RMAC tournament semifinals Sunday night at Dirks Field, securing their first RMAC championship match appearance since 2011.

Fort Lewis (11-3-4) will host Colorado State University Pueblo in the RMAC finals on Friday at 5 p.m.

Senior midfielder Loic Jean-Baptiste scored the opening goal for Fort Lewis in the first half. Junior defender Jakob Larson scored a goal in the second half. Freshman forward Emmett Layman also scored two goals in the second half after UCCS’ starting goalkeeper Soren Russell was sent off with a red card.

“We have at least six to seven guys who can score all the time, and we have a really strong defense,” Jean-Baptiste said. “It’s easier for the offensive players to dribble or take shots.”

UCCS defeated the Skyhawks 3-2 on Oct. 12, giving Fort Lewis its lone conference loss.

“They put us under a lot of pressure and made it difficult,” Skyhawks coach David Oberholtzer said about UCCS. “Our guys continued to fight and found a way to create opportunities. I think once we got the first goal, it definitely gave us some momentum and once they had the red card, which was definitely deserving, then I thought we were really able to take control of the game.”

In the first 10 minutes, neither team could maintain possession for too long. UCCS was lurking and took advantage of some Fort Lewis turnovers in the midfield and had some shots on goal early on.

A big chance came with 20 minutes to go for the Skyhawks. Junior forward Gabriel Legendre had a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, tried to chip the keeper, but Russell saved it for UCCS.

Fort Lewis continued to attack, but Russell made some big point-blank saves for UCCS. While the Skyhawks were on a counterattack, Jean-Baptiste was cleared out around midfield, which resulted in a yellow card for the UCCS player.

Thirty seconds later, Baptiste put together a beautiful display of moves toward the 18-yard box. He got the ball on his left foot on the left side of the 18-yard box and placed the ball into the opposite corner for a 1-0 lead with less than seven minutes left in the first half.

“He’s a massive piece to us,” Oberholtzer said of Jean-Baptiste. “He’s had a really good career here, and I’m just really happy for him that he gets to end his career with the type of season we’re having. Hopefully, we can keep it going (beyond the RMAC tournament).”

Fort Lewis came out aggressive in the second half. Everything changed in the 51st minute when freshman forward Anton Hjalmarsson was taken down while trying to get past Russell toward an open goal. Russell hit Hjalmarsson in the midsection and was issued a red card.

The Skyhawks quickly took advantage, starting with Larson’s header in the 58th minute off a corner kick from Tomas Duentes to put Fort Lewis up 2-0.

Layman delivered the final two daggers, scoring his first goal in the 66th minute and his second in the 78th minute to get the packed crowd on its feet.

“When I first took over in 2016, the program was in a lull,” Oberholtzer said. “We’ve been fighting to try to get us back to this point. To have the alums out and excited about what’s happening, the community of Durango and the campus out, it’s really special for me personally to see us bring back this type of feeling to Dirks Field and to the program.”


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