Coming off Wednesday’s big win at home, the Otters hit the road for two critical matches in Virginia. Facing off with Virginia Beach United (one spot below the Otters in the table) and Lionsbridge FC (one spot above), the games hold major implications for the South Atlantic playoff race. After conceding in the first ten minutes of the match, the Otters settled in and scored two second half goals to win 3–1 on the first leg of the trip. The win keeps the Otters in fourth place, but pulls them within two points of the third and final playoff position. The Otters will face Lionsbridge FC Sunday night at 7 PM before returning home on Wednesday to face the NCFC U-23s inside TVA Credit Union Ballpark at 7 PM!
Coming off of a long bus ride, it was a sluggish start to the game for the Otters. Virginia Beach came out aggressive and were able to earn a corner kick in the tenth minute. While the initial ball in proved not to be dangerous, it pinged around in the box, eventually falling to a Virginia Beach United player that was able to roll it into the goal.
Conceding the goal seemed to wake up the team, as Gabriel Ramos (ETSU) immediately earned a free kick in the attacking third. Aidan O’Brien (ETSU) sent in a curling ball that Otters debutant Josh Hancock (ETSU) got a head to and was able to equalize the game instantaneously.
The Otters continued to earn several dangerous free kicks, as Virginia Beach was relegated to drawing fouls to break up the Otters attack. Danilo Seglio (Loyola Maryland) was able to create several dangerous chances off of them but was denied by the Virginia Beach keeper.
Virginia Beach continued to work to get in behind the Otters defense, and just before halftime they were brought down in the box to earn a penalty kick. However, goalkeeper Mars Gohier (Florida Southern) was able to make a diving save to his left and push the ball away and preserve the 1–1 scoreline going into the half.
Energized from the penalty save, the Otters came out in the second half looking for another goal of their own with Seglio and Guillermo Segovia (Florida Tech) toeing the backline to try and get in behind and draw fouls.
With the next game just 48 hours away, the coaching staff looked to manage minutes, and the game turned on the energy brought by the substitutes. Danny Talisuna (Florida Tech) and Djibril Faye (Radford) teamed up on the left side to stop several VBU attacks and immediately get out on the counter attack. In the 70th minute, Charlie Betts (Milligan) and Vinzent Zingel (CSU-Pueblo) entered the match for Seglio and Segovia up top, and remained dangerous their entire time on the pitch.
The breakthrough came just seven minutes later when Talisuna made a great run to the endline and cut the ball back to Agu Ortiz (Anderson) who took it with his left foot and was able to bang it off the back post and in for the 2–1 Otters lead.
From there, the Otters took over the match with Zingel and Faye nearly connecting two minutes later to increase the lead. Kendall Allen (U-Indy) came on to replace Gabriel Ramos and made a great run down the right side to draw a foul as the game went into stoppage time. The Otters won the ball back and Tom Tzabari (Duquesne) played the ball out wide to Zingel, who sent a ball into the box that Faye buried with a header to give the Otters the final 3–1 lead.
The win pushes the Otters to 17 points on the season and keeps them unbeaten in six games. They prepare to face Lionsbridge FC tomorrow at 7 PM, as they keep pushing for that third playoff spot. The Otters will return home THIS WEDNESDAY to face the North Carolina FC U-23s at 7 PM inside TVA Credit Union Ballpark. It will $1 Wednesday and tickets are already on sale at ottersoccer.com! Be sure to follow the Otters on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date on all things Otters as they head into the critical point in the season! #FearTheFur