It was a game of massive momentum swings on Saturday night that saw the Otters draw 3-3 with Virginia Beach United in their final game in Kermit Tipton Stadium this season. The result has the Otters finishing unbeaten at home for the first time ever after compiling a 4-0-2 record within Kermit Tipton Stadium outscoring opponents 15-7 during the six-game run. With the largest crowd on hand this season, the Otters saw themselves fight back from a 2-0 deficit, but two stoppage time goals saw the game end in a draw.
The first half was a 45 minutes to forget for the Otters, who found themselves out of rhythm and struggling to connect passes through the midfield. They found themselves trailing 2-0 in the first 20 minutes after two second balls fell right to Virginia Beach United players and were able to finish past Carlos Rubio (Lenoir-Rhyne).
After the second goal, the Otters settled in a bit but were still far from the sharpness they had shown in previous matches. Their two best chances of the half came from Troy Brady (Canisius) and Alex Horveno (Lynn) who both were able to get behind the defense, but the Virginia Beach keeper was able to make two very good 1-v-1 saves to keep the lead at 2-0 going into the half.
The second half was a completely different story. The Otters came on the front foot and imposed their will on the game, bombarding Virginia Beach from the get-go. It only took two minutes for them to pull one goal back when Jack Burrows (Palm Beach Atlantic) played a ball across to a charging Merveil Bilomba (ETSU) who hit a ball from 25 yards out that sailed right into the top of the net a la Vincent Kompany for Manchester City.
From there, the Otters only increased the pressure, and in the 57th minute they leveled things at 2-2 after Pol Vassart (Lees-McRae) slipped Brady in behind who rounded the keeper and finished from a tough angle.
The Otters continued pushing for the winner and made two subs as Cole McLagan (Furman) and Marvin van der Made (Cumberlands) came on and used their energy and fresh legs to keep the chances coming. On the defensive end, Bilomba, George Stanley (Montreat), and Blake Barribeau (Palm Beach Atlantic) were able to pick off passes and stifle any threat that Virginia Beach could muster.
The Virginia Beach United keeper continued to play well, stopping good chances from McLagan, Brady, and Made in a two-minute stretch. As well as near misses from Burrows, Stanley, Horveno, and Taylor Gray (Reinhardt).
As the clock hit 90 minutes, Oscar Perez (Wingate) won a ball in the air and passed to McLagan who played a fast ball on the ground behind the defense. Horveno used every last bit of energy he had to chase it down and got a cross in just before the ball went over the end line. The Virginia Beach keeper came out to cut it off, but it deflected off of him and Made flew in and blasted it home for the 3-2 lead. That was Horveno’s fifth assist, tying him for third in USL League Two for most assists, and moving him into a tie with Mehdi Chtara for the most-ever in a season by an Otter.
The lead was short lived as Virginia Beach were able to equalize a minute later when a cross from the right wing came in and Rubio was unable to beat the Virginia Beach forward to it who headed it in for the equalizer. The final whistle came shortly after securing a point for each team.
The Otters remain in second place with 15 points through eight games while first place Lionsbridge FC have 16 points through ten games. The Otters will now head back out on the road for the next two weeks, travelling to face the NC Fusion U-23s on Tuesday and the NCFC U-23s on Friday and then heading out to Eastern Virginia to face Virginia Beach United and Lionsbridge FC.
Next Saturday, June 29th the Otters will be hosting their first-ever eSports Tournament at the Carnegie Hotel. You can come to just hang out with the players and watch or enter into our tournaments for FIFA 19 and Fortnite with a cash prize of $250! General admission is $20 and tournament entry is an additional $5, you can register HERE or the day of! #FearTheFur