Pelafas’ 89th minute equalizer not enough, heartbreaking first-round exit ends soccer’s season

UB Spectrum | Yusong Shi Hartland Freshman Madison Pogarch heads the ball during the MAC Tournament quarterfinals in Buffalo, New York. Buffalo beat Central 3-2 in penalty kicks after double overtime.

With two seconds left on the clock and in Central Michigan soccer’s season, freshman forward and midfielder Alexis Pelafas buried a game-tying shot to send CMU and Buffalo into overtime. Her fifth goal of the season made it 2-2.

But ultimately, CMU fell to Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinals. The Chippewas’ first postseason match in two years ended on penalty kicks Sunday at a windy UB Stadium, after a pair of overtime periods weren’t enough to decide a winner.

With the loss, CMU’s season comes to an end, while Buffalo moves on to the semifinal round of the tournament where they will play Western Michigan, who defeated Toledo 3-0 Sunday.

After missing out on last year’s eight-team tournament, the No. 6 Chippewas had a chance to capture the first conference championship since 2010.

“In the context of the game today I'm very proud of the Chips as a team,” said Head Coach Peter McGahey. “I think that you cannot discount the competitive character that we showed during the game.”

Going up against the No. 3 Bulls as underdogs, CMU proved to be a nuisance for Buffalo through the game’s concluding minutes.

Buffalo opened up the scoring as the second minute began, with a goal off a crossbar, deposited into the lower left corner of the net.

Freshman forward Madison Pogarch helped CMU respond in the 20th minute with a goal coming from 30 yards away.

It was Pogarch’s third goal of the season and it tied the game at one goal apiece going into halftime.

Statistically, it was an even match as the two teams headed to their locker rooms for the intermission. Buffalo having attempted six shots, three on goal and CMU with five shots, two of which were on goal at the half, made for an evenly-contested first 45 minutes.

The Chippewas lost the lead on a goal in the 56th minute. After the Bulls pushed across the go ahead goal, they limited CMU’s attacking chances by maintaining possession of the ball until the time they needed it the most.

Pelafas’ goal in the 89th minute forced overtime, in which the Bulls controlled.

Pelafas was also given two yellow cards following fouls committed in the 107th and 109th minutes respectively.

After two overtime periods failed to yield a result, the game was sent to a round of penalty kicks to determine the winner.

Senior Kaelyn Korte scored the lone goal in this period, however, as Pelafas along with juniors Taylor Potts and Eliza Van de Kerkhove couldn’t get anything past the opposing goalkeeper.

McGahey went on to say it is easy to look straight to the penalty kicks and draw their opinion from those alone, but that isn't a fair assessment of how his team played.

“You have a tendency to look at the penalty kick shootout and say ‘Okay, that didn't go exactly our way’ and somehow that devalues the performance or the character they showed throughout the game. I certainly do not believe that.”

Freshman goalkeeper Zoie Reed made her final start of 2015. She made four saves and faced six shots on goal.

Before the penalty kick round began, Reed was replaced in net with junior Maddy Bunnell, who proceeded to give up three penalty kick goals in the loss. McGahey said going with Bunnell was part of the plan from the beginning.

“(Bunnell coming in) had always been the plan,” he said. “If we had gotten that far, then we were going to utilize Maddy’s strengths on penalties to try to take us through the penalty kick shootout. That was by design.”