• High Point and Presbyterian battled to a 0-0 draw through 110 minutes in the Big South Championship.
• The Blue Hose edged the Panthers, 4-3, in penalty kicks to win their first conference title in program history.
• HPU finished the season 10-5-4, reaching double-digit wins for the second straight season and for the third time in four years.
HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s soccer team saw its season come to a heartbreaking end on Sunday in the Big South Championship, falling in penalty kicks to the Presbyterian Blue Hose. HPU and PC had battled to a 0-0 draw through 110 minutes before the game was decided in the shootout.
“We learned how to win a championship this year by winning the regular season,” head coach EJ O’Keeffe said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t close out today and we have to learn from that. Credit Presbyterian and Coach Potter, who has done a heck of a job and made it difficult to play. I thought we had a really large spell of play, and, in particular the second half, that I really thought we were on the cusp of scoring. We’ll learn from this. I can’t think our seniors enough for everything they’ve invested into this program. For the guys that return, this will certainly be a fire that burns for us for awhile.”
High Point (10-5-4) saw its championship dreams dashed in the shootout for the second time in three seasons – also falling in penalty kicks in the 2015 championship game. The Panthers had an early edge in the shootout as sophomore Ryan Inman delivered in the first round and redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper Keegan Meyer made a diving stop to his left to give HPU a 1-0 lead. Both teams converted on their opportunities in the second and third rounds.
In the fourth round, sophomore Siggi Benonysson missed his attempt high before Presbyterian (6-8-5) converted their chance to even the shootout, 3-3. In the fifth and decisive round, sophomore Nathan Bondswell had his shot stopped by Connor Behrend and the Blue Hose’s Ricardo Hernandez scored to give Presbyterian the championship.
HPU controlled a majority of the contest, holding a decided advantage in shots, 16-9. However, PC’s stingy defense limited High Point to just two shots on target in 110 minutes, one in the first half and another in the second. The Panthers were unable to record a shot in either overtime period.
The field was tilted towards HPU’s end in the second half, especially, when High Point outshot Presbyterian 12-4. In a 15-minute stretch, the Panthers were able to fire off seven shots, including great opportunities from sophomore Jonathan Bolanos (70th minute), senior Poli Rodriguez (74th), and Benonysson (77th). Bolanos was just wide of the left post from 10 yards out, Rodriguez missed the right side off a corner from Inman and Benonysson’s attempt to go short side on a counterattack evaded the right post.
Meanwhile, Meyer was strong in net for HPU, recording five saves and earning his eighth shutout of the season. Meyer finished his year by not allowing a goal in his last five-plus outings, totaling 497:33.
Bolanos and junior defenders Johnny Fenwick and Rashid Tetteh were named to the All-Tournament team. High Point will return all but five players from this year’s roster to a program that has won double-digit games in back-to-back seasons and advanced to two conference championship games in O’Keeffe’s three years.