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Fort Lewis College men’s soccer drops RMAC Tournament semifinal in overtime

Regis scores winner five minutes into extra time to advance

The Fort Lewis College men’s soccer season came to a heartbreaking close on Sunday in Denver, as the Skyhawks lost 2-1 to No. 2 seed Regis in overtime in the RMAC Tournament semifinal round.

Fort Lewis (11-5-4) was unable to hold on to a slim 1-0 lead, after Loic Jean-Baptiste opened the scoring in the 28th minute. Hakeem Rabiu found Jean-Baptiste on a counterattack, who buried it into the bottom left corner of the net to make it 1-0.

The Skyhawks conceded a second-half goal to the Rangers on an inch-perfect free kick from Ben Shepherd in the 63rd minute, and for the eighth time this season, Fort Lewis forced overtime. Five minutes into the extra period, Luca Kother found Porter Milner down the right flank, and Milner crossed in a ball than found the left right foot of Parker Klein. He took one touch and beat Byrne to the bottom right corner for the game-winning goal.

Fort Lewis College head coach David Oberholtzer said he was proud of the team’s fight, and even though the game did not go his team’s way, the Skyhawks showed plenty of heart.

“I’ve been super proud of the team all year long,” Oberholtzer said. “I think our big question at the beginning of the season was what’s the chemistry going to be like, because we had so many new faces. From start to finish the guys worked as hard as they possibly could, and worke for each other. Obviously we didn’t want the season to end today, but we still battled. The season has to end at some point for just about everybody, and today was our day, unfortunately.”

After the Skyhawks went up, Regis was able to mount a few attacks of its own, but did not score before halftime, and the Skyhawks took the lead into the break,

In the second half, Regis (12-6-2) was able to control much of the possession, and made the most of it. After the Rangers tied the score at 1-1, the Skyhawks did not panic.

Fort Lewis was able to create half-chances including a corner kick, but did not grab the winner. In the 83rd minute, Ryan Lee received a one-touch pass from Rabiu, but Lee’s shot from just inside the box went narrowly wide left. With 12 seconds remaining, Kother almost headed home the winner for the Rangers off of a corner kick, but it went wide. It was level after 90 minutes at 1-1.

The Skyhawks were looking to pull off a road upset as the No. 6 seed, and after forcing another overtime, they felt that the match could have been won. FLC had played seven overtime games this season entering Sunday, and were 3-0-4, and had yet to give up a goal.

“We’ve now been in eight overtime games this year, and I think the guys were familiar with the feeling,” Oberhotlzer said. “It wasn’t an uncomfortable situation for them to be in, and they were up to the challenge. There weren’t any nerves and they were confident. The message was ‘let’s go get a winner.’ Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, but they did they best, and the heart they showed was amazing.”

A winner was never found, as Klein’s goal sent the Rangers to their first RMAC title game appearance since 2016.

Fort Lewis will lose four players to graduation, including Rabiu, Max Fuentes Carrera, Ty Lang and Marshall Metzger.

It was Oberholtzer’s first full group that he has seen through the program since he took over as coach in 2016.

“We had an opportunity to thank the seniors on senior day, but it doesn’t really hit you until the final game is played,” Oberholtzer said. “I think the big thing for me when I took over the job four years ago, these were some of the first guys that have been through the program with me. They were an integral part in the transition, and have been fantastic leaders and examples for what they want in the program. They helped take us a long way and helped us progress moving forward.”

The Skyhawks were looking to make the RMAC Tournament championship match for the first time since 2015, and the last trophy the program won was the national championship in 2011.

Regis will move on to face the No. 1 seed Colorado School of Mines in the RMAC Tournament Championship at 6 p.m. Friday in Golden.

“I think even after the game, the guys who are returning are already chomping at the bit for next season,” Oberhotlzer said. “I enjoy the hunger they have, and want to continue to get better and grow. We saw a lot of guys really come into their own, gain valuable experience and I think it’s all positives that we will take from this, and we’ll grow as a team.”

bploen@durangoherald.com



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