Men's Soccer, Sports

How sweet it is! Knights advance to another Sweet 16

Video: Seth Nutting

Zubeen Azari took a pass from Chris Nothnick and kicked the ball into the back of the net. The scoreboard showed 16th-ranked Wartburg up 2-0 with 22 minutes remaining.

But, after the celebration was over, the “2” was changed to a “1” igniting a shouting match on the sidelines.

A hand ball on Wartburg called by the sideline official was not seen by the head ref until after the play.

Suddenly, No. 19 Chicago had new life in this NCAA tournament second-round match.

How did the Knights keep their composure?

“I tried my best,” senior Brady Anderson laughed. “I was pretty upset, honestly, for a minute. We talked, we got together for a minute and were like, ‘hey, we’re going at them. We’ll get another one. Just because they took it away doesn’t mean we can’t keep going.'”

Wartburg kept the Maroons off the board, and 18 minutes later, Paris Martins clipped the ball past goalkeeper Hill Bonin, then crashed into Andrew Mines to deflect the ball into the net.

The 2-0 win sends the Knights to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season. Wartburg will visit No. 8 Wheaton (Ill.) in the next round at 5 p.m. Friday.

“I would say (Chicago) had most of the ball, most of the attack and then actually after (the goal was taken away), that gave us an extra boost to be honest with you,” Wartburg coach Kirk Artist said.

“I’ve always kind of said, especially with this team this year, whenever the coaching staff gets excited, whenever the bench gets excited, the guys actually play with more intensity, more enthusiasm. It wears me down, but if that’s what we’ve got to do to get them going on the field, we’re gonna do it.”

Just like last year’s second-round victory against Hope, Connor Johnson recorded the winning goal, only this time it was in the first half, not overtime.

Nothnick delivered a perfect ball into the box and Johnson headed it in to give Wartburg a 1-0 lead in the 37th minute.

The Knights held a slim 7-5 shots advantage. Each team tallied four shots on goal.

“We knew that we weren’t letting them score today,” Brady Anderson said. “We got scored on on a very questionable goal yesterday (in a 1-1 tie with MSOE that the Knights won in a penalty-kick shootout.) Our whole team played great defense as a whole, so we said if we get one goal, we’re winning this game for sure.”

Wartburg was tested when two defenders went down with  injuries, including first-team all-conference honoree Kevin Krueger, but the Knights didn’t miss a beat.

“It’s a true testament to our depth,” Anderson said. “We had some injuries and we had some people who got tired because we played yesterday, but we had some guys come in and play at the same level if not bring it up. It was crucial.”

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