Junior Lewis Ellis headed home a dramatic game-winner in overtime and the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville men’s soccer team secured a 2-1 victory over Central Arkansas in front of 2,375 fans at Korte Stadium.
SIUE (5-5-0, 1-0-0 Missouri Valley Conference) grabbed a 1-0 lead late in the first half off a header from Andrew Kendall-Moullin, but the Bears (4-6-0, 0-1-0 MVC) leveled the score midway through the second half with a goal from Wes Carson.
But Ellis provided the decisive blow within the first two minutes of the first overtime period, sending a glancing header past UCA goalkeeper Patxi Shortsleeve to hand the Cougars the victory in the team’s MVC opener.
“It was a quality performance from the team,” Head Coach Kevin Kalish said. “I felt like we controlled the majority of the first half, but they responded in the second half and found the equalizer. It showed a lot of character from our guys to find the winner in overtime.”
SIUE held a 12-4 advantage in shots and forced nine corner kicks while conceding none. Goalkeeper John Berner made one save en route to his fifth victory in goal for the Cougars.
The hosts created a number of scoring chances throughout the first half, and Kendall-Moullin had a goal ruled out because of a close offside decision.
With less than two minutes remaining in the opening period, however, the freshman from Fairbault, Minn., gave SIUE the lead. Gabe Christianson swung in a cross from the right side, and Kendall-Moullin rose to send a looping header inside the far post to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
Central Arkansas responded midway through the second half, when Carson latched onto a through ball and scored from 15 yards to even the scoreat 1-1.
The score remained deadlocked at the end of regulation, but SIUE would not have to wait long to find its game-winning goal. This time it was Justin Bilyeu who provided the assist, sending in a cross from the left that Ellis met with a flicked header to seal the win for the Cougars. The goal was Ellis’ first in a Cougar uniform.
“We’ve played a very difficult schedule so far, but it’s prepared us for conference season,” Kalish said. “From our standpoint, it’s about growing in confidence as a group and doing the little things correctly in order to win games at this level. It wasn’t a perfect performance tonight, but I think our guys took a step in the right direction.”
Kalish also praised Saturday’s homecoming crowd of 2,375 at Korte Stadium, the largest attendance figure the Cougars have had during the regular season.
“The crowd helped tremendously tonight,” Kalish added. “It was a fantastic environment all game. I want to thank the students and the fans for the support; it definitely pushed the team to victory.”
Next up for SIUE is a non-conference matchup with No. 5 Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., next Saturday. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.