West Chester University is one win away from a national championship in men’s soccer for the first time since 1961 after a come-from-behind 2-1 overtime win in Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon.
Jason Pixley headed home a Daniel Grindrod pass in the fifth minute of the first overtime to keep the Golden Rams’ season alive and set up a national title match on Saturday against Barry University, which advanced on penalties after a scoreless draw with top seed Fort Hayes State earlier on Thursday.
Back in the Division 2 semifinal for the second year in a row, Cal Poly Pomona had the upper hand through much of the first half but wasn’t able to capitalize until about 10 minutes after halftime when Omer Green set up Eduardo Faria with a perfectly placed cross the Brazilian was able to head home with ease past a diving Will Marshall.
As they have done so often when facing adversity during their postseason run, which included knocking off unbeaten defending champions Charleston, West Chester responded less than five minutes later when Eric Greer was able to bury an equalizer less than two minutes after checking into the game. It was the first goal of the Chadds Ford, Pa. native’s college career and came when a corner kick was punched out to Craig Potts, whose header back toward goal was deflected out to the freshman for the left-footed blast.
With the score level, Cal Poly continued to put pressure on the Golden Rams back line, forcing Marshall into three saves in a four-minute span and firing off a couple shots in the closing seconds of regulation. But yet again West Chester was able to bend but not break and live to see one more day when they got the all important early overtime goal.
Brett Miller, whose corner kick led to the equalizer, was also involved in the winner. His hard run down the left flank with a defender draped on him created an opening for Grindrod, who received a short pass from Miller and served up a ball from outside the left corner of the 18 that Pixley was able to convert with a strong header in traffic for his eighth goal of the year.
Saturday’s final will kick off at noon at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh and will mark the first time the program has played for a Division 2 title after the 1961 team beat Saint Louis in just the third NCAA men’s soccer championship back before the division split.