AURORA, Ill. – It was a "brutally physical battle" according to CUW coach Tom Saleska on Wednesday afternoon as Concordia University Wisconsin and Aurora University collided in a Northern Athletics Conference Tournament semi-final matchup.
After a 1-1 tie in regulation and two scoreless overtime periods, the Falcons limped away victorious over the Spartans in a 4-3 penalty kick shootout to advance to the NAC Championship match.
Senior James Kroll (York, Ill.), sophomore Diego Campos (Milwaukee, Wis.), junior Jacob Pope (Muskego, Wis.) and freshman Ryan Carey (Appleton, Wis.) were all succesful on their penalty kicks for CUW.
"This is a gratifying victory," head coach Tom Saleska said. "Being able to grind it out this late in the season says a lot about our toughness. We had to match their physicality throughout the match, but we were limited offensively because of Aurora's aggressive defense."
Pope fired a shot at the Spartans' goalie just over 14 minutes into the match and senior Tyler Harris (De Pere, Wis.) was in the right spot to pound home the rebound for the contest's opening score.
Playing against a game-long swirling wind, both teams had difficulties connecting on passes and shots on goal for the remainder of the half.
AU (12-5-2) found a rhythm after the break and tied the score at 1-1 when Corey Novotny found the back of the net at 63:35 via a Jon Palomar and Alex Brunell passing combination.
Senior goalie Sam Ische (Menomonee Falls, Wis.) anchored the Falcons (11-7-2) defense with 10 saves. It was his third match this season with double-digit saves.
"Sam played solidly today after struggling the past couple of matches," Saleska said. "His confidence was down, but he took today's match personally after being named to the conference's second team. He played really well today and absolutely saved us at times."
A combined total of 28 fouls were called with three yellow cards and one red card handed out. Shots on goal were tough to come by, but the Spartans held a slight advantage, 11-10, over the Falcons.
The game officially goes down in the books as a tie, but CUW is the team that will travel to #1 ranked Dominican University for a Saturday 1 p.m. match at West Campus Field. The winner of that match receives an automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
The Stars are ranked between 8th and 12th in various National polls and are first in the Central Region. They have won all six NAC Tournament Championship matches.