Tornado Battle Cold and Bobcats in First Round Loss
The Tornado kept pace with the Bobcats through much of the first half and amped up the pressure on the hosts in the second. With the final minute ticking away and King trailing 2-1, the Tornado made one final push to the Lees-McRae goal. As the countdown for the final ten seconds began, Zack Caracciolo (Clarksville, Tenn.) took possession of the ball inside the top-left corner of the goal box. The sophomore put a swift strike that tailed to Lees-McRae keeper Thomas Rusling's left side, where he made a diving save. The ball deflected out to the near corner and rolled over the touch line as time expired, resulting in a 2-1 loss for the Tornado.
King's Tom Winspear (Yarm, England) also had a golden opportunity to tie the game at two goals with 6:40 remaining in the match. Two tri-captains worked together for the opportunity when defenseman Eric Douglas (Asheville, N.C.) lofted a pass into the box where Winspear was working on his defender, one-on-one. The pass and Winspear seemed perfectly aligned but the forward's header attempt sailed just to the left of the corner post.
Trailing Lees-McRae 2-0, Sam Nicol (Midlothians, Scotland) and Colby Childress (Huntsville, Ala.) combined for King's lone goal on a masterfully executed play. Off of a failed attempted clear out, Childress picked up the loose ball in the Lees-McRae defensive zone and sent in a cross pass to the right side of the box. From nearly seven yards out, Nicol struck the ball while in stride toward the goal and found the back of the net to half the lead, 2-1, at 57:48.
Through much of the first half, King and Lees-McRae battled to a nil-nil tie though the Tornado had multiple opportunities to score. Following a blocked shot off the foot of Zach Caracciolo, Senior Colby Childress returned fire but sailed the ball high over the crossbar at 13:32. The combination of Joe Mayer (Essex, England) and Tom Winspear made a routine of penetrating the Lees-McRae defense but could not finish their connection with a goal.
Lees-McRae took a 1-0 lead in the 42nd minute when T.C. Stephens pitched it into the box where Scott Alford lined up for a header. From the right side of the box Alford finished the play for the goal with 11 seconds remaining in the first half.
With just seconds remaining in the first half, the Bobcats added to their lead with a second goal. James Smith fed a pass through heavy traffic into the box. Ryan Gillespie followed up the pass and finished the play with a strike to Patrick Milfeld's (Dallas, Texas) left side, scoring his first goal of the season. The goal eventually served as the game-winning tally.
Despite the loss, Milfeld kept the game a one-goal deficit with incredible save after incredible save. Midway through the second half, the senior went one-on-one with James Smith when the two met deep in the goal box. After a turnover on the King side, Preston Shahdad fed a short pass to Smith and began driving in on Milfeld. The two players converged and Smith put a strike toward the goal before the King senior batted it away to his left, thwarting the scoring chance.
Milfeld came up huge once again with 29:10 remaining in the second half, stopping another huge strike from Lees-McRae. James Galvani had a chance at an open net but Milfeld recovered quickly and made a diving, one-handed save to punch out the shot attempt to keep the game at a 2-1 count. He ended his senior campaign with seven saves, six coming in the second half.
Eight cautions were issued in the game, four on each side. Foul counts were high with 22 being administered to King and 17 fouls to Lees-McRae. The shot counts for each team were close with King finishing with 13 to the Bobcats' 16 on the night.
The loss concludes the Tornado's 2011 season. The team finished with an overall record of 5-10-1 after receiving a seventh place seeding in the Conference Carolinas Tournament in Louis Thorpe's first season as the men's head coach. All five of King's win came against league opponents, making for a promising future after the College's first year participating in Conference Carolinas.