Tigers bounce back in time for conference play

STORY BY SIENNA RODRIGUEZ
PHOTOS BY ALLISON SCHWEIZER

On the heels of the second-worst start in program history, the Fort Hays State University men’s soccer team came into the conference-opening weekend with a much-needed response. The Tiger’s defeated Northeastern State University 2-1 and No. 15 Rogers State University 2-0 to begin the Great American Conference 2-0.

Santiago Agudelo played a major role in the Tiger’s thrilling overtime win against Northeastern State, scoring both of the team’s two goals.

Northeastern State opened the scoring for the night in just the 2nd minute of the match. The Riverhawks’ Aaron Ugbah blasted an almost 25-yard strike into the back of the net.

The first goal for Agudelo came in the 19th minute of play. Arsenio Chamorro controlled the ball after a header from Agudelo and played it to Rogelio Lopez who, with some nifty footwork, defeated his defender and crossed the ball to a streaking Agudelo who headed home the equalizer.

Onlookers would not see another goal for the rest of regulation. Heading into overtime, nerves were high for Tiger fans alike hoping for a win.

In just the 4th minute of extra time, Agudelo struck again. After receiving a flawless pass from defender Sergio Villalba, Agudelo found himself one-on-one with the Riverhawks’ goalkeeper, Justin Hinman.

Making no mistake, Agudelo calmly sidestepped an onrushing Hinman to slot home the winning goal.

Fort Hays State’s goalkeeper Cullen Fisch had two saves from 11 shots on the night.

“We always have the same game plan, to get better one game at a time,” said Fort Hays State head coach Gerry Cleary. “They [Rogers State] play very similar to Northeastern, so our game plan will be the same.”

The second match of the weekend came on Saturday, Sept. 21 against a, prior to Thursday night, undefeated Rogers State team.

The 1st half appeared to be a gridlock until the Tigers broke through in the 32nd minute of the match.

Fort Hays State’s Joey McCain picked off a Rogers State pass and found Santiago Agudelo just outside the 18-yard box. With a couple of touches to turn and set himself up, Agudelo struck the perfect ground ball past the Rogers State goalkeeper and into the lower-left corner of the net, putting the Tigers up 1-0.

This was Agudelo’s third goal of his 2019 campaign. All three goals came in these two games.

With what was almost a somber start to the 2nd half, the Tigers gave up a penalty kick in just the 1st minute of play.

Rogers State’s Jordan Watson stepped up to take the kick that proved to be no match for Fort Hays State goalkeeper Cullen Fisch, keeping the game at 1-0 in favor of the Tigers.

The Tigers doubled their lead in the 64th minute with a brace from Rogelio Lopez, his first goal of the season.

Agudelo controlled the ball off a header from teammate Nathan De La Hoya, turning and dribbling at speed to the top of the 18-yard box. The reigning National Player of the Year crossed the ball to the reigning MIAA player of the year in Lopez, who redirected the ball back across the frame of the goal into the lower left corner.

Fort Hays State would go on to win the match 2-0 over Rogers State to improve to 3-3, and 2-0 in the Great American Conference.

Fisch had five saves from 12 shots, including his penalty kick save.

“Getting those first two goals on Thursday and one today really helped me get my confidence back and give our team the confidence to start winning again,” said senior forward Santiago Agudelo.

The Tigers are back in action next week as they head to Arkansas to take on Ouachita Baptist University and Harding University. The games are scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 26 at 4 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m., respectively.

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