A one hour weather delay was not enough to keep the Otters from recording their third straight win Friday night, topping the Dalton Red Wolves 1–0. A raucous crowd, undeterred by the weather, were rewarded with a rocket from Agu Ortiz (Anderson) to open, and close, the scoring on the night. It was the final home game for the Otters, who now find themselves in fourth place in the highly competitive Deep South Division. The Otters will close out the season next week, finishing their postponed match against Asheville on the 12th before traveling down to Georgia to face Peachtree City MOBA.
The night got off to a slow start as teams were forced to the locker rooms just as warmups were concluding. However, the storm moved through and the game was able to begin after just over an hour. Fans returned to the stadium, filling up the on-field seating and The Bunker, to cheer the Otters on in their final home match of the 2022 season.
Much like Wednesday, the Otters came out swinging looking for an early goal as Conal Gallagher (UIS) and David Panter (Hastings) both recorded shots early on. The Otters stayed quick on the counter attack, forcing Dalton players to consistently foul to prevent quick attacks down the middle of the field.
Defensively, the Otters posted their third straight shutout, with William Stallworth (Montreat), Kelly Gieber (Southern Oregon), Jan Gruhn (CSU-Pueblo), and Ethan Bishop (Milligan) only allowing one shot the entire night, which Shane Lanson (SMU) was able to save.
Despite their efforts, the Otters went into the break scoreless. After an abbreviated halftime, the teams returned to the pitch again looking for a breakthrough as Gallagher, Panter, Ortiz, and Edin Hernandez (Montevallo) all got shots off.
The winner came in the 73rd minute for the second straight match when Ortiz worked some space for himself and fired a missile into the top right corner to put the Otters ahead for good.
The Otters seemingly doubled their lead just ten minutes later when a set piece by Hernandez found the head of Gruhn which fell to Panter in front of goal who fired home for what appeared to be a 2–0 lead. After celebrating with the fans and lining up to resume play, the goal was waved off for an offsides call.
Dalton were never able to threaten in the final minutes of the match, and both David Evans (Tusculum) and Ashton Taylor (Milligan) were able to make their USL League Two debuts for the Otters in the waning minutes of the match and see the result out.
The win closes the Otters home season with a third straight win and shutout and brings their home record to an even 4–4 for 2022. The Otters will travel to North Carolina and Georgia next week to close out the regular season and continue to move up the division standings. Even though the season is drawing to a close, be sure to follow the Otters (@ottersoccer) on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date on all things Otters year round as they prepare for the 2023 season! #FearTheFur