Had the ball curved just a fraction of an inch right, all of Jonathon Venters' work would have gone for naught.
Luckily for the Shawnee State goalkeeper, the blast by Malone's Zach Rausch clanked of the left post with nine seconds remaining in the second overtime and the Bears picked up a point in the AMC with a physical 1-1 tie with the Pioneers on Monday.
It was the fourth straight year the two teams were within a goal of each other. Last year, Malone and SSU played to another 1-1 finish. Two years ago, the Pioneers scored in the first extra period to win.
Monday, both teams had chances to put another epic battle away in the final five minutes of the second overtime, but could not find the game winner.
“It was a great game both ways,” Shawnee State coach Ron Goodson said. “It's been like that for four years. It was a real hot day today and, after the Cedarville game last weekend, it was good to see the guys come out and play hard for 110 minutes. Venters had a huge game for us in goal.”
The weather wasn't the only thing that was hot. Throughout the game, there were heated exchanges between players and two players, one from each teams, received a yellow card for tackling from behind.
Almost every challenge for the ball resulted in pulling and pushing, and though Malone dominated through much of the first half, the Bears' defense disrupted the Pioneers' chances to get good looks at the net
“The boys showed that they can be physical. It was the way soccer was meant to be played,” Goodson said.
The Pioneers had more than double the number of shots, 25-11, in the game, but Venters showed his prowess, stopping 12 shots in goal to preserve the tie. The senior corralled a number of point blank shots by Malone, and stopped a direct kick that was tailing toward the goal in the overtime period. Still, he was relieved the final shot by Malone just barely missed.
“Thank goodness it did,” Venters, who has the all-time record for shutouts, said. “They say the post is a keeper's best friend.”
Malone may have had the final chance, but Shawnee had two chances earlier to pick up the win. In the second overtime, Paul Adkins got the ball deep into Malone territory and fired a shot over his right shoulder without getting a good look at the net. With the Pioneer's goalie out of position, the high-arcing shot looked poised to find the back of the net before a Malone defender booted it out of the way just in time. Minutes later, a header by Steven Cox went just wide to the right side of the net.
“We played well at the net and we had some good shots at the end,” Goodson said.
Malone got the first goal of the game as Marcos Batchelor received a pass from Dean Greenland and fired a shot from right to left past Venters 16:48 into the game. The Bears, which only had three shots on goal for the game, tied it up midway through the second half when Gonzalo Perez-Beck rocketed a shot of a direct kick into the left corner to get the equalizer.
The young Bears had multiple chances to end the game in regulation, using their speed against a visibly tired Pioneer squad, but goalkeeper Mike Porter helped Malone stave off the late surge and get the game into overtime.
The Bears, which had suffered two one-goal defeats in the last two games since knocking off Mount Vernon Nazarene, picked up another point in the AMC standings. Venters said with the way the team is progressing, he can see the improvement game-by-game.
“I just wish I had more years,” he said. “They have a bright future.”
JEFF TAEPKE can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 242.
Malone 1 0 0 0 - 1
SSU 0 1 0 0 - 1
First Half - 1. Malone; Batchelor (Greenland) 16:48.
Second Half - 1. SSU; Perez-Beck (DK) 62:05
Shots - Malone 25. Shawnee State 11.
Saves - Malone; Porter 2. Shawnee State; Venters 12.
Records - Malone 5-7-1 (1-1-1 AMC). Shawnee State 5-5-2 (1-1-1 AMC)