GEORGETOWN, Texas – Over the course of two consecutive matches, the Southwestern University Pirates men's soccer team held the Austin College Kangaroos scoreless for 195 minutes and 38 seconds.
Heading into a penalty kick with less than five minutes remaining in the Pirates' first-round match of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Championships, goalie Alan Carr faced Austin College leading scorer Phillip Le one-on-one.
Carr began his dive a fraction of a second before it left Le's foot, leaping to his right to stop the Kangaroos' final shot, sending the Southwestern University crowd into a frenzy and the Pirates to a semifinals match against Colorado College after a 2-0 victory.
"Alan's been consistent with his saves towards the end of the season," Head Coach Dustin Norman said. "His job is to make sure all the easy ones are made to look easy.
"We're not asking him to make the big saves but occasionally he's forced to come up with them and today he got a big, strong hand on the penalty kick to keep it out and cover it up on the follow up."
For most of the first half, the Pirates' defense maintained a yellow wall around Carr, keeping traffic in front of their goal clear by keeping everything out of the box. Though Austin College held possession for a good portion of the half, Southwestern limited the Kangaroos to just two first-half shots.
Starters Colin Maloney, Alex Newell, Wil Mekelburg, and Garrison Van Houten cleared every Austin College attack, snuffing out threats before they could develop, and junior forward Sacco Fernandez came off the bench with a lot of energy, covering ground across the middle of the field to disrupt the Kangaroos' attack.
"Full credit to the backline, the wingbacks, and defensive midfielders. They've been stellar all season," Norman said. "They've really managed to keep us in games even when we might not be at our best."
Both teams faced each other less than a week earlier, battling to a scoreless double overtime draw last Sunday. If familiarity breeds contempt, it showed in the physicality of play at times with 20 combined fouls and a few other big collisions.
"There were some hard challenges in the first game that ended nil-nil and it kind of carried over," Norman said. "Obviously it was physical, the game takes its toll but we tried to rotate the squad as much as we could while trying to maintain the same energy."
Having played Austin College so recently, that familiarity also provided a look at something the Pirates would take advantage of when they finally broke through in the first half.
In the previous match, Southwestern had several opportunities when Austin College goalie Joseph Khalaf came off his line to aggressively challenge crosses and other plays inside the box.
Working out of a set piece off a free kick following an Austin College foul, Wil Mekelburg delivered a lob to the outer left corner of the box, drawing Khalaf out a step. A one-touch pass from the middle of the scrum found Jake Swonke, who put the ball past the out of position Khalaf.
"He's aggressive in the air and he's a very good goalkeeper. You just hope to catch him every once in a while," Norman said. "It's just a difference in style but it's something we were aware of and wanted to try and take advantage of."
Though possession was roughly even in the first half, the Pirates made more of their opportunities, getting a 7-2 advantage in shots and pressuring enough to earn five corner kicks.
Austin College threatened several times in the second half, breaking through Southwestern's defense for 12 second-half shots with nine on goal. Carr stopped each one, finishing with a career-high 10 saves—the most by any Pirate since Ryan Benner collected 10 on the road against Trinity in 2016.
At the 82:02 mark, Mekelburg added an insurance goal, getting a header off a corner kick from Andrew Hernandez for his first goal of the season. A few minutes later, Carr stopped the penalty kick and Coach Norman cleared his bench.
With the win, the Pirates improve to 11-5-2 on the season and 6-7-1 all-time in SCAC Tournament play and will advance to play second-seed Colorado College tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. This will be the sixth meeting between Southwestern and Colorado College in a conference tournament, with the Pirates holding a 3-1-1 edge, defeating Colorado College 1-0 in last year's tournament.