Monday, November 17, 2014

Gonzaga men finish season with victory over Portland

The Gonzaga Bulldogs finished a disappointing season on a good note, avoiding a loss on the final day of the season to the Pilots, who were looking to avoid a winless conference campaign. The Zags rallied from a first half Portland goal, grabbing a 2-1 victory in overtime.

Midfielder Lars Ludwigs was buzzing Saturday. He was constantly threatening the Pilots goal with several chances throughout the game before finding the winner early in extra time, sending the seniors out with a victory. Clark Phillips gave them the opportunity for the win with an equalizer early in the second half.

"Guys, obviously were inspired on the Senior Day, and I think at times they really showed it," said head coach Einar Thorarinsson. "Lars, obviously, with the game-winner and Clark with the tying goal. Two seniors ending their career nicely, on a nice note."

On a chilly afternoon in temperatures in the 20s, the match sounded more like a horse race as the frozen turf made the action sound like the hooves of a pack of horses charging down the track.

"I think the field conditions changed our style of play a little bit. Couldn't control the ball as much as we wanted; had to go a little longer over the top, but we won. Good effort by the guys."

Eight minutes into the contest a ball played into the box from near the corner of the left touchline and center line dropped inside the box to Zach Hamer, who redirected the onrushing Lars Ludwigs, who ripped the shot off the far right post from about 13 yards.

The missed chance proved costly at the time as the Pilots went down the pitch and scored a minute later when a ball from Eddie Sanchez put Conor Johnston just past the outside of the back line at the edge of the box, allowing him to score from about eight yards.

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The Zags nearly tied it up in the 21st when Aaron Jeffery took the ball into the right corner and sent a low well-driven ball into the center of the six. A defender made a quick reaction clearance at the top of the six, but it went right to Ludwigs, who sent a reaction one-timer from about eight yards toward the left side netting only to see the keeper make a nice diving stop.

They did find the equalizer in the second half with the insertion of Graison Le. He made an excellent individual play to create the tying goal, acquiring the ball on the right touchline and beating a defender to open up plenty of space to drive to goal. He proceeded down the right edge of the box, curling inside as he neared the endline before dishing it inside the six from about 10 yards out. Hamer, sandwiched between a pair of defenders got his foot to the ball, popping it back out to open space inside the area, allowing Clark Phillips to charge in and bury it into the back of the net.

Ludwigs had yet another chance in the 74th minute of the contest when a corner whipped into the area in the area by White, but his flicked header bounced just wide of the far post.

The game would ultimately go to overtime, but the extra session ended abruptly just 28 seconds in. White and Le again played roles. White charged up the left side, crossing a ball in from a couple yards outside the box that bounced through the six harmlessly. Le, though, reached the ball a few yards outside the other side of the six before the Pilots could get to it, knocking it first-time off the bounce back to the top of the six where Ludwigs finally found paydirt, nodding it past the recovering keeper for the victory.

"If we would have scored two goals per game this year, we would have won more games this year. Simple as that."

"It's been a tough season for us. We have just struggled scoring goals. I don't know how many times I have said it - we just could not find the back of the net. We were in a lot of games and outplayed a lot of teams, but just couldn't score."

The Bulldogs' 3-3-1 West Coast Conference campaign (5-12-1 overall) fell well short of expectations for the season considering the team's outstanding season a year ago in which they beat several ranked opponents and were arguably snubbed by the NCAA selection committee after finishing 10-6-3 (5-4-3 in the WCC).

"Disappointing, yeah," Thorarinsson said of how things went after last year's success. "We had guys who were very capable, but just couldn't find the final pass or the final quality shot."

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