GASTONIA — Following a losing first half, the East Lincoln Mustangs (3-15-1, 1-8-1 Southern Piedmont Conference) stepped up their game in second-half play during Monday night’s conference battle against the Highland Tech Rams, securing a 3-3 tie that included 20-minutes of overtime.
The Mustangs started the match with ball possession, quickly launching it up the field toward the Rams’ net, gaining a free kick just outside the box in the first 45 seconds of play.
The team proved sluggish during most of the first half that followed, struggling to attack their opponent’s goal many more times.
The Rams secured a free kick at the four-minute mark, but the shot met instantly with an East Lincoln defender’s head, sending the ball out of bounds and out of danger for the visiting team.
A minute later, Highland Tech celebrated their first match goal which stemmed from a shot 18 yards out from senior forward Alvero Carrea, but was deflected into the net by the East Lincoln goalkeeper.
The Rams (7-6-1, 5-3) immediately scored a second point less than a minute later with teamwork near the mouth of the goal from sophomore forward Owen Levy and sophomore midfielder/forward Cory Moore. Levy crossed the ball to Moore, who lit up the scoreboard.
At the 15-minute mark, the Mustangs again neared the home team’s goal after several minutes of straight defensive play in front of their own net, trying to keep the score margin at bay.
In a matter of 30 seconds, Levy darted down field, outrunning all the orange jerseys that chased him, and slid the ball in behind the goalkeeper, giving his team a 3-0 lead over the Mustangs.
Levy continued to launch shots at the East Lincoln net but was deemed offside at the 23-minute mark.
With a little over 10 minutes left to play in the half, junior Tyler Mispley secured the Mustangs’ first goal of the night off a header during a corner kick play. Sophomore teammate Garrett Reavis is credited with the assist.
Going into the second half, East Lincoln trailed Highland Tech by two points, but Mustangs head coach Jason Dragoon praised his team for their increased aggression along with senior goalkeeper Josh Vance’s nine breakaway saves in the second half.
“East came out strong and built some quality attacks,” Dragoon said.
East Lincoln scored the only two goals of the half at minutes 15 and 16.
Reavis netted the second goal off a throw-in by freshman Blake Strupp, who also threw another ball to Mispley for the game-tying goal.
In overtime play, each team similarly attacked the other’s net, keeping fans anxious for a tie-breaker that never came.