KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Indiana Wesleyan University men's soccer team is one step closer to capturing the program's first ever national championship.
Top-seed Indiana Wesleyan defeated No. 5-seed Mid-Continent (Ky.) University 4-3 late Thursday night in the NCCAA National Tournament semifinal in Kissimmee, Florida which featured a very feral ending.
"This is one of the greatest matches I have ever been apart of," said IWU head coach Mark Castro. "We worked really hard to get here and we had to beat a really good Mid-Continent team tonight in an emotionally draining match."
Sophomore Nick Fortini put the Wildcats on the board first off an assist from sophomore Mitch Lobdell. Fortini knocked the ball home off a free kick in the 15th minute.
Indiana Wesleyan was forced to play through some adversity for the final 69 minutes when a red card was issued to the Wildcats, forcing IWU to play a man down the rest of the match. The card was not a factor the rest of the first half as Indiana Wesleyan took the 1-0 lead into halftime.
Mid-Continent tied the score 1-1 off a corner kick in the 57th minute and took their first lead of the night just three minutes later with a header to the back post off a crossing pass.
The match turned wild in the final 16 minutes of play as Indiana Wesleyan tied the score at 2-2 with a goal from senior Ben Chleboun that was assisted by senior Joel Trainer.
Six minutes later the tide turned again as Mid-Continent retook the lead 3-2 in the 80th minute. But the Wildcat took the pursuing kickoff down the field and tied the score 3-3 with the match still in the 80th minute. Lobdell played a through ball to Joel Trainer for the tally as momentum returned to IWU as quick as it left moments earlier.
Five minutes later in the 85th minute, Joel Trainer headed the ball to sophomore David Trainer who rifled home the match-winning shot for a 4-3 Wildcat advantage.
Mid-Continent was still able to create scoring chances in the final five minutes. But IWU senior goalkeeper Andy Rdzok, in for an injured Spenser Lang, made an incredible save in the waning moments to preserve the 4-3 lead.
Castro said, "Our guys played with a tremendous amount of character and determination, especially having to play a man down most of the match. We continued to battle and our work paid off. I am extremely pleased for our team."
Mid-Continent ended the night with a 14-12 advantage in shots while putting 10 on net to Indiana Wesleyan's six.
Friday is an off day for the tournament as teams will participate in Christian service projects at Wycliffe Translators.
IWU competes in the championship match at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday, December 6 where the Wildcats face No. 3-seed Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College. Roberts Wesleyan earned a spot in the championship with a 2-0 victory over No. 2-seed Campbellsville (Ky.) University in the other semifinal.