FHSU Sports Information Department
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Fort Hays State claimed the Central Region Championship for the second-straight year as it defeated No. 19 ranked Upper Iowa 4-2 on Friday (Nov. 20) at Rockhurst University. In the process, the Tigers also set a new program record for wins in a season, now at 13-5-1 overall. The Tigers will take on Rockhurst in the Super Regional Final/National Quarterfinals on Sunday at 1 pm.
The Tigers and the Peacocks split in the regular season. The Peacocks’ victory over the Tigers on November 6 in Hays clinched their first MIAA Championship and jeopardized the Tigers’ fourth straight NCAA Tournament bid momentarily. However, the Tigers had revenge on their minds Friday and claimed the region championship and the season series over the Peacocks.
The match started off with a fortunate break for the Tigers when a cross from senior forward Joe Albright deflected off the head of an Upper Iowa defender and landed in the back of the net just 4:26 in.
Less than five minutes later Upper Iowa got the equalizer. Rhys Williams came flying down the right side of the field for the Peacocks and sent a cross into the middle of the box where Ryan Pinkerton was waiting to head it past the FHSU goalkeeper Michael Yantz, tying the game at 1-1 at the 9:12 mark.
Mauricio Castorino displayed why he was granted the MIAA Player of the Year award when he used some beautiful footwork in the 16th minute to get around a Peacock defender and execute a perfect give and go with Maurizio Costa and buried his 10th goal of the season, pushing the Tigers ahead 2-1.
Killian Gorman added to the lead when he entered the back side of the box on a delayed run, and got just enough of the ball to keep it inside the far post for his first goal of the season at the 43:32 mark. It was the final goal of the opening half and the Tigers went to the locker room up on the Peacocks 3-1.
The second half started with a lot of pressure from the Peacocks, but the Tiger defense was up for the challenge, despite suffering 12 shots in the half. A corner kick from Kyle Markovits was sent into the box in the 71st minute, bounced off David Lucio, and Drew Wilson elevated over a defender to head it into the net for his first goal of the season. The Tigers led 4-1 going into the last 10 minutes.
Upper Iowa showed grit and determination as they were not going down without a fight. In the 81st minute, the Peacocks cut the lead to two when Sebastian Smith rifled a shot from twenty yards out and was able to get it past Yantz for his third goal of the season.
Despite the late pressure, the Tiger lead was too much for the Peacocks to overcome and the score remained 4-2 at the sound of the final horn. Yantz, who earlier this season become the FHSU single-season wins leader added to his record-breaking season and pushed his record to 13-5-1 with three saves.
With the victory, the Tigers move to the National Quarterfinals for the second straight year. The Tigers will look to advance to the National Semifinals in Florida with a win on Sunday (Nov. 22) at 1 pm against Midwest Region Champion Rockhurst University.