STATESBORO, Ga. - With two teams battling for their first Sun Belt Conference men's soccer tournament title on Sunday afternoon at Eagle Field, it was the top-seeded Georgia State Panthers who made plays late to claim a 4-2 victory over host Georgia Southern and advance to the NCAA Championships.
Georgia Southern (7-7-3) trailed 1-0 at the break, but scored twice in the second half to take a 2-1 lead with 15 minutes remaining in the contest. Georgia State (11-6-2) quickly tied up the match by converting a penalty kick in the 75th minute, then Tournament MVP Hannes Burmeister scored the go-ahead goal in the 83rd minute, completing his hat trick and sending the Panthers to the title.
A Burmeister PK in the 29th minute of the first half gave Georgia State a 1-0 lead at halftime. Georgia Southern had a 7-6 edge in shots at the break.
All of the rest of the goals in the match came in the final 25 minutes of the second half. Georgia State goalkeeper Kyle Lancaster came out of his box to play a ball on the right side, but as he was dribbling the ball back towards the box, senior Javier Carbonell
won a challenge, dispossessing Lancaster of the ball and waltzing in for the equalizer in the 66th minute. The goal was his Sun Belt Conference-leading 15th of the season and tied the Georgia Southern single-season record, first set by Darryl Watson in 1987.
Georgia Southern would take the lead in the 72nd minute as Aldair Cortes'
free kick from more than 30 yards out on the right side skipped in on one bounce, into the bottom left corner of the net.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Burmeister would convert his second PK of the match in the 75th minute, sparking the late-goal outburst by the Panthers.
Pressing for the equalizer, Georgia Southern earned a corner kick with 45 seconds left and goalkeeper Jokull Blaengsson
came up into the box for the corner. The Panthers were able to win the ball off the corner and Frank Rosenwald scored into an empty net with 19 seconds remaining for the final tally.
"We don't make excuses, but we have the youngest team in the league," Georgia Southern Head Coach John Murphy
said. "We've been regularly starting seven to eight freshman and sophomores every game. They just had a little more experience on the day, They got a couple of breaks, and you've got to make your own breaks. I thought we did that getting back into the game with the first goal, then had a well-worked second goal. They're a good team, we battle with them quite a bit. It's tough to lose to them on our home field, but the future is very bright for our program right now, we're going to continue to move forward."
Georgia State finished the match with a 19-15 edge in shots. Blaengsson made four saves in net for the Eagles, while Lancaster made four saves in net for the Panthers. Georgia State had five corner kicks on the day, with Georgia Southern taking three. The Eagles were whistled for 16 fouls, compared to 10 for the Panthers, and Georgia State was offsides twice on the day.
Three Eagles were named to the 2018 Sun Belt Conference All-Tournament Team - senior forward Javier Carbonell
, sophomore defender Gonzalo Talavera
and sophomore defender/midfielder Aldair Cortes
The match also gives Georgia State the lead in the 2018-19 Southern vs. State Rivalry Series. The Panthers claim two points for the win and now lead 4.0 to 2.0. Click here
to view the complete Southern vs. State Rivalry Series standings.