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Owls fall to Shoremen in penalty kicks

GAMBIER, Ohio – The No. 17 Kenyon College Owls men’s soccer team faced off against the No.18 Washington College Shoremen (Md.) on Sunday afternoon for the second round of the 2023 NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament at Mavec Field. 

In a tightly contested match that extended beyond the two 45-minute regulation halves and two 10-minute overtime periods, the Owls fell in penalty kicks 5-4 (1-1) to end the 2023 campaign. 

The Owls had no shortage of chances in the scoreless first frame, and perhaps the best of those chances came from team goal leader Alem Duratovic. The junior forward had four of the Owls’ eight shots in the first half, with his best chance coming in the ninth minute as his header beat the Shoremen keeper but was just wide. 

Towards the end of the half, it was junior midfielder Eamon Dujakovich’s turn to test the Washington defense, as he sent a screamer off of a headed pass from Jacob Lazarus that hit the fingertips of keeper Anthony Pinto with 23 seconds left to play. With the defense scrambling six seconds later, Dujakovich again got the ball after a Washington turnover in front but sent the shot barely high.

For the first, the Owls outshot the Shoremen 8-3, while the corners were notched at one apiece. Jack Pedreschi and Pinto each made one save. 

In the second, Kenyon came out with its best chance of the game. Twelve minutes after play resumed, Ben Hitt advanced the ball through the midfield into Washington’s end with a full head of steam and found Joey Martens in the box. Martens gathered possession and sent a low, lofted chip to the middle, where Duratovic got a great foot on it with his back to the goal. The shot barely nicked the Shoremen keeper’s gloves and just sailed past the post to keep the 0-0 score. 

Nearly 20 minutes later, as both teams exchanged solid chances, Washington broke through. After a failed clearance by the Kenyon defense, Harrison Malone cleaned up the loose ball and sent a high shot that bounced off the left post and into the right side of the net past a diving Pedreschi to give the Shoremen a 1-0 lead with 15 minutes to play. 

The Owls did not back down and battled even harder for possession as the time was shorter and shorter. Five minutes after Washington pulled ahead, Max Thesing took a corner kick in the far end. He sent a left-footed laser that curved towards the net, cut through traffic, and bounced off of a Washington defender and in to tie the game at one, and that’s how it would stay after 90 minutes. 

In the first 10-minute overtime period, Washington turned up the pressure and nearly pulled ahead twice. Katim Njie on a fast-break opportunity and Chris Glendenning’s header both were going towards the back of the net but were expertly thwarted by Pedreschi for his fourth and fifth saves of the contest, keeping Kenyon in the game when it mattered most. 

The Owls responded in the second overtime period with excellent chances of its own. The first came off of a looping throw-in from Aidan Burns that found the head of a leaping Duratovic who was aiming for the high corner but was stymied by Pinto. Martens nearly called game with 12 seconds left after Dujakovich headed it to Duratovic who found the senior midfielder on the back post, but his shot fell just wide, and the game was headed to penalty kicks. 

In penalty kicks, the Owls shot first and started strong. Gerardo Martinez, Burns, and Duratovic all fooled the Shoremen keeper in sequential order, but Washington responded with three successful tries of its own. Next up was Martens, who nearly snuck a low left ball underneath Pinto, but an athletic save gave Washington the edge after a converted try on its next attempt. Vic Bravo beat the keeper high left with his shot, but Chris Comber was able to send his try past Pedreschi and send his team to the next round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Kenyon ends its 2023 season with a final record of 16-4-1, a good start in the first year of the Travis Wall era of Owls men’s soccer. 

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