OKLAHOMA CITY – The celebration was raucous, but head coach Jimmy Hampton had one message for his team.
“We haven’t won anything yet,” he told the team after the University of Science and Arts dispatched with No. 2 Oklahoma City 2-1 in the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals Monday night on the road and piled onto one another at midfield.
With a record of 14-2-1, the Drovers have not spent one day in the top-25 national poll and will likely need another upset of No. 24 Southern Nazarene (12-4-1) in Thursday’s tournament finals to receive a national tournament berth. Game time was not available at press time.
The odds looked insurmountable for the Drovers early in the game. Playing into a stiff, cold wind that knocked down most every pass, USAO lost second team all-conference goalkeeper Ricardo Moriera to a leg injury just five minutes into the game. Sophomore Frank Gibson, who started at defender, ran off the field, grabbed a goalkeeper’s jersey and ran back onto the field to play his first collegiate minutes in goal.
Eight minutes later, OCU had its first goal and a 1-0 lead. The Stars kept the momentum and the ball, pounding away on the Drover defense. OCU had 10 first-half shots while USAO posted nine fouls trying to slow down the attack. One foul and subsequent yellow card cost the Drovers their middle defender.
Chris Lee left the game midway through the first half with a cut to his right eye that needed stitches. Down 1-0, a goalie and two defenders, USAO limped into halftime.
The second half was a different match as halftime adjustments by Hampton put leading scorers Nikola Cakarevic and Wesley Costa on the outside one-on-one with OCU defenders. It only took Cakarevic seven minutes into the second half to beat his man and get a foul, which led to Cakarevic’s game-tying free-kick goal from 25 yards.
Cakarevic grazed the crossbar and the post with his next two shots just minutes later, and in the 58th minute Cakarevic scored the go-ahead goal on a cross from Costa only to be called offsides. Earlier in the season, a game-tying goal by Costa was overturned by an offsides penalty in a 3-2 loss to OCU. This time the overturned goal wouldn’t matter.
USAO continued to get clean shots outshooting OCU 10-3 in the second half. In the 81st minute, Costa beat his defender, faked out the goalkeeper and slipped the game-winner in the back of the net.
Gibson played 84 minutes in goal collecting two saves while allowing only one goal.
USAO is 8-10-1 all time against SNU after losing a 2-1 double overtime game earlier this season on the road. The Drovers are 2-7-1 against SNU in their last 10 games.