The Lindenwood University-Belleville Lynx (15-7) continued their postseason run Saturday with a 2-1 victory over the University of Northwestern Ohio (16-5) in the opening round of the NAIA tournament.
A first-half goal from Alberto Barroso gave the Lynx an early lead and then Oriol Morego netted the game winner with under 10 minutes remaining to send the Lynx onto the round of 16 in Delray Beach, Florida.
On a cold, rainy day,the Lynx prevailed in less than ideal conditions and picked up their first win in NAIA tournament history.
The opening half seemed to be dominated offensively by the Racers, as they fired the first five shots of the game, three of which were turned away from Nicolas Nicolaci. However, in the 35th minute, Barroso capitalized on a failed clear off a corner, and kicked in his first goal of the season, giving the Lynx a 1-0 advantage.
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After the first 45 minutes, the Lynx led but were getting outshot 7-3 and had six less corner kicks, although they made the only one they had count.
In the second half, as rain and sleet continued to fall, the playing surface became tougher and tougher to navigate on, as players had trouble controlling their footing and the ball. In the 54th minute, Racers striker Sean Latimer equalized the game with a header as Nicolaci was caught too far out of the goal.
Just two minutes later, Nicolaci came up with the two biggest saves of the year, as he turned away the first shot attempt from Latimer, who then got the rebound, but the outstretched arm of Nicolaci forced the ball off the post to keep the game knotted at one.
With under 10 minutes remaining, the Lynx gained control on the Racer half of the field and drew consecutive fouls, giving them a free kick from 25 yards out in the middle of the pitch. The left-footed Morego took the kick and sent it around the wall of Racers, beating the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Liam Davies, giving the Lynx their second lead of the game.
As time continued to wind down, the Racers kept up the offensive pressure with their season on the line. Nicolaci bested his previous efforts from earlier in the second half, as he once again turned away back-to-back shots from inside the box.
Those saves proved to be the final test for Nicolaci in the match, as the Lynx kept the ball away from the box for the rest of the match, even as the Racers brought up Davies for an extra attacker.
The Lynx will play Dec. 1 against the winner of No. 11 Science and Arts (Okla.) and Bellevue, of Nebraska.
This is the furthest any team from LU–Belleville has advanced in the NAIA tournament, and marks only the second time in the history of the athletic department a team has won in the tournament. The 2015 softball team won twice in the opening round.
With the win, the Lynx push their current winnings streak to a season high six games and are now 9-1 over their last 10 games. Additionally, they improve to 6-0-1 in the postseason over the last two years.