Nov. 16, 2013
CHICAGO – The UIC men's soccer team kept its season alive Friday as it took down No. 5 Wright State, 1-0, at Flames Field in overtime to move on to the Horizon League Championship match set for Sunday at 2 p.m. CT. Senior Slobodan Aleksov netted the game-winner in the 93rd minute on the rebound save from his penalty kick attempt.
The Flames improved their season record to 16-3-0, while picking up their 10th-straight win and 10th shutout of the season. Wright State moved to 6-11-2 as its season came to an end.
"Anytime you get into tournament play, there is a phrase in college athletics that we use a lot called ‘survive and advance,’ and that is what we did today," head coach Sean Phillips said. "When you have Wright State really putting everything together, feeling a second-lease on life to their season, it made things difficult. The weather conditions were also challenging and we handled that well in the first half. As the game progressed, I felt it was just a matter of time before we got one, and again, Slobodan (Aleksov) came through."
"Our attacking players did a very nice job of constantly applying pressure and believing that we were eventually going to get what was needed to win. Our backs, especially in the first half, handled things very well."
The Flames maintained strong possession in the first half and limited the Raiders to just five shots after continuously breaking up chances. UIC recorded nine attempts, with senior Bob Novak leading the way with three of his own, including one on goal.
UIC continued its push into the second half while Wright State presented a physical presence and tallied 12 fouls. The Flames created 12 total shots in the half from nine different players, with four on goal, and held the Raiders to another five attempts. Sophomore Jorge Alvarez led UIC in shots in the second half with three, while junior Jesus Torres put in an additional two.
With the match still scoreless, the Flames headed into overtime and in the 93rd minute, Wright State’s Jacob Stovall was charged with a foul in the box and received a yellow card, granting UIC a penalty kick. Aleksov took the shot for the Flames, which was turned away by goalkeeper Tyler Blackmer, but Aleksov stuck with it and put in the rebound for his 10th goal of the season and fourth game-winner.
Freshman goalkeeper Andrew Putna had to make just one save in 92:36 minutes of action and recorded his 10th shutout to improve his season GAA to 0.72, while Blackmer made six saves against UIC.
"It was an interesting 36 hours and we want to give Wright State credit for getting a very competitive game together in a unique situation," added Phillips. "From going through the rollercoaster of being told we are going to advance, and then six hours later being told we were then playing Saturday, I thought our team did a nice job of handling that psychologically."
The Flames will take on No. 2 Milwaukee in the Championship Final tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Flames Field after the Panthers defeated No. 3 Oakland, 2-0, Saturday. During the regular-season matchup, UIC came out on top of Milwaukee, 1-0, after Torres scored the lone goal in the 66th minute off a pass from Aleksov.
"Both teams have a very tough turnaround, but both have to deal with it," Phillips said. "Weather conditions will be a challenge again tomorrow, but the biggest challenge will be beating the Milwaukee Panthers. They are a top 50 RPI team, potentially the most challenging win we had over the course of the year here at Flames Field, and they looked very good tonight. We are looking forward to a very good, entertaining soccer game with two teams that have a small number of losses, know how to win games and play a really good brand of soccer."