The Butler Bulldogs almost sprang what would have been the biggest upset in the first round of the N.C. 4A soccer playoffs Tuesday against the Providence Panthers at Butler.
The Bulldogs were about to send the opening-round playoff game into overtime, but Panthers co-captain Connor Kirby saved the day for Providence. With less than a minute to go in regulation, Kirby launched a 35-yard rocket that fell just over the outstretched hands of Butler goalkeeper Andres Santiago, and the Panthers escaped with a 2-1 victory.
The Panthers entered the playoffs ranked No.2, (No.1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16) and the Bulldogs were ranked No.31 out of 32 teams. Providence also owned a 7-1 win against Butler during the regular season.
“I didn’t take a great touch and I saw that we were short on time so I thought I would just kind of kick it, and it worked out,” said Kirby. “I would definitely say this was a wake-up call. We need to pick up the intensity and show up next game.”
The season ended for Butler (9-12) but the Bulldogs saved their best game for last. Meanwhile the Panthers will move on and face the winner of the Hopewell-Ardrey Kell first-round game which will be played Wednesday.
Providence (22-0) scored first in the ninth minute. Off a free kick, Andrew Zendan launched a 35-yard shot that caromed off the goal post. The ball was volleyed in the box before finally being headed in by Matthew Nozedar and Providence led 1-0.
Trailing early in the second half, Butler’s Jeisson Chaves fired a shot from 15 yards that beat Providence goalie Austin Kemp to tie the match at 1.
“Hats off to Butler,” said Providence coach Timothy Long. “They played absolutely outstanding, had a lot of energy and heart that really took us off what we wanted to do tonight.”
The Panthers had three first-half shots, but ratcheted up the effort with eight in the second half.
“I told them at halftime that we only had three shots and we talked about really trying to match their intensity,” said Long. “Toward the end there we finally started to put the pressure on and Connor was able to get an open shot where he could take a touch and put it on goal.”
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