Esteban Leiva Gives Otters Win in Boone
The Otters were able to open the 2022 season in dramatic fashion as Esteban Leiva (Belmont) delivered the game winning strike in stoppage time to push the Otters to a 2–1 win! The result gives the Otters a one-goal advantage going into the second leg of the OtterSquatch Cup, set to be played on May 25th in Johnson City at TVA Credit Union Ballpark. Tickets to that match, as well as other matches and season tickets can be bought here or by visiting ottersoccer.com!
High up in the mountains of North Carolina, the Otters travelled to Boone to face off with NPSL-foe Appalachian FC in the first leg of the OtterSquatch Cup Tuesday night for their first action of the season. The Otters got out on the front foot early, using the press to set up several big chances for the attacking quartet of Shoki Yoshida (Wilmington), Aritz Uriarte (Post), Patrick O’Halloran (Lynn), and Sebastian Borquez (Rio Grande).
Defensively, the backline of Jan Gruhn (CSU-Pueblo), Andy Elkins (UAM), and Austin Yowell (Belmont), controlled much of the game, and used long balls to switch the field of play and give wingbacks Davis Eddleman (Belmont) and Ant Cox (Bellevue) the ability to send in dangerous crosses.
However, Appalachian FC were able to get on the board first, right before halftime, as a bouncing ball fell to an Appalachian attacker that put it in the top corner for the 1–0 lead.
The Otters came out firing in the second half, and in the 55th minute Raul Varela (Lynn) forced an Appalachian turnover at mid-field that Noah Kvifte (St. Leo) played out wide to Borquez, who cut the ball back in to Kvifte for the calm finish to equalize the game. Appalachian FC nearly went back in front in the 74th minute, if not for an excellent full-extension save by Joshua Garvilla (Lees-McRae) to keep the game level.
Using long throw-ins from substitutes Ethan Bishop (Milligan) and William Stallworth (Montreat) the Otters created several more chances, with David Panter (Hastings) being denied in the 88th minute by the Appalachian keeper. The breakthrough came early into stoppage time when a throw-in by Bishop found the head of Leiva and bounced in the box. Leiva collected his own second ball and drove towards the touchline before blasting the ball past the keeper from a tough angle to give the Otters the 2–1 win in front of a raucous crowd.
The Otters will hit the road this Saturday, May 14th, when they travel to Dalton, Georgia to face the Red Wolves for their first USL League Two match of the season. With the 2022 season underway, be sure to follow @ottersoccer on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date on all things Otters from games to camp and more! #FearTheFur