Six days, three games, three double overtimes, 336 minutes of grueling soccer and it came down to eight kicks in a penalty shootout to decide the Commonwealth Confer-ence champion.
The Lycoming men's soccer team knocked a 56-year-old monkey off its back when Trevor Bishop drilled his shootout penalty kick, lifting the fourth-seeded Warriors to a 5-3 shootout win after a 0-0 double overtime tie with No. 2 Elizabethtown on Saturday at Ira Herr Field.
The Warriors (10-7-4 overall) will wait until 1 p.m. Monday to learn of their opponent in the NCAA Division III tournament. It is the first time in school history that Lycoming will play in the tournament.
"These guys couldn't have done anything more," first-year head coach Nate Gibboney said. "They fought. It was never pretty.
"There were opportunities in our defensive third in the box, but every play it was someone new stepping up, blocking a shot, sliding out of nowhere, clearing the ball, getting a diving save. Resilient couldn't be a better word. They worked so hard."
Kevin Seymour began the shootout by connecting to the right side before Elizabethtown tied it to conclude the first round. Junior Luke Klingler connected with the left side of the net, before junior goalkeeper Connor Keenan dove right to make a great save. Lyco's Adam Kuntz connected in the middle of the net before Elizabethtown closed back within one at 3-2.
Keenan drilled a kick to the left, taking a 4-2 lead, before the Blue Jays again connected, setting up Bishop's game-winner.
"Our coaches scouted the penalty kicks well," Keenan said. "They told me which direction to jump and I did and I made the stop. I stepped up, drilled mine and I knew our guys would hit there's."
The shootout win ended a string of bad luck for the Warriors against the Blue Jays, as they also lost conference finals to the team in 1994 and 1999 and a conference semifinal in 2008. The road there, couldn't have been more difficult, but the Warriors held three opponents scoreless for a string of 336 minutes in the conference tournament, starting with a 1-0 double-overtime win against Lebanon Valley on Monday, Nov. 4. On Nov. 6, the Warriors downed No. 1-seed Messiah after a 0-0 double-overtime tie by posting a 5-4 penalty-kick shootout win. Tonight, the Warriors notched their eighth shutout of the season en route to the shootout, which they won, 5-3. In all, the Warriors have held opponents scoreless for the past 448 minutes.
Keenan, for his effort in that shutout stretch, earned the Commonwealth Conference Tournament MVP honors, as he made one save on 19 Elizabethtown shots before the huge shootout save on Saturday night.
The Warriors got their first opportunity in overtime when Seymour fired a shot just right of the net from 25-yards out in the second period. Freshman Mike Amaya (Stockton, N.J./Hunterdon Central Regional) got another chance just outside the box with three minute left, but the shot flew just left of the net.
Elizabethtown (10-6-4 overall) had an opportunity late in the second overtime, but senior Connor McNiff (Marietta, Pa./Donegal) got underneath on a nice slide tackle to get the ball out of the box and ensure the shootout.
In the first overtime, the Blue Jays nearly won in the sixth minute when Andrew Sandbridge hit the left post with a laser of a shot.
With 30 seconds left in regulation, the Blue Jays got their best chance of the game when a handball was called on Lycoming just outside the box, but Martin Fevre's shot was blocked by the seven-man Lycoming wall and Elizabethtown couldn't get another shot off before overtime.
A game marked with steady midfield play meant neither team could get quality chances early in the game. In the 24th minute, Elizabethtown got its first chance with a free kick from 40 yards out that junior goalkeeper Connor Keenan (Exton, Pa./Downingtown East) corralled at chest height.
In the 35th minute, a throw-in near Lycoming's box was headed out to Cal Graziano in a dangerous spot, but the resulting shot flew high.
To start the second half, the Blue Jays got the first chance, with an open look from 25 by Jack Rudy sailing high. The Blue Jays also got a chance in the 57th minute, as Sandbridge got a look from the top of the box after a cross, but his shot sailed high.
The Warriors first real chance came in the 55th minute, when a free kick was knocked away by the Elizabethtown goalie to the feet of senior Connor McNiff (Marietta, Pa./Donegal), but his shot sailed high into the night. A shot by Dylan Sisler in the 57th minute countered, but it flew off the right side's netting.
Elizabethtown got another counter attack in the 58th minute, when a cross into the box was headed just wide by Graziano. In the 73rd minute, Elizabethtown got another chance when Eric Borkowicz fired a shot from 15 yards wide right. Soon after, a long throw in to the mixer in front of the Lycoming net led to another narrow miss, with Borkowicz connecting before Keenan knocked it past the goalline.
In the 86th minute, Sisler got inside on a 1-v-1, but his shot flew over the crossbar from just outside the goal box.
Elizabethtown keeper Rodrigo Barrera earned the shutout for the Blue Jays, as Lycoming took seven shots in the game.