LYNCHBURG, VA — The Randolph College men's soccer team, in only its fifth season of existence, reached the top of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Saturday earning its first ever conference crown with a 2-1 victory over Lynchburg College in action from WildCat Stadium.
In a packed house with standing room only against their rivals from across town, the WildCats (16-5) battled back for the third consecutive game to score two goals after conceding the first of the game. With the victory, the WildCats earn the ODAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament which starts this week.
With over 1,000 people in attendance including many of the original players to don the black and yellow, Randolph persevered after Lynchburg College (7-9-4) jumped out on top after LC buried a penalty kick. In the 24th minute, Ryan Renfro and Carter Smith (Greensboro, NC/Grimsley) got tangled up in the box. The official awarded the penalty, and LC's Zach Rusk made no doubts with his finish.
After the intermission break, the WildCats did what they have done all season and that is respond with a fantastic half of soccer. Randolph nearly tied the game in the 62nd minute, as Nick Cornell (Front Royal, VA/Warren Co.) headed a shot towards goal by Hornet senior Tyler Romano cleared the ball off the line.
Minutes later, Lynchburg keeper Michael Releford made one of the most amazing saves you'll ever see, stopping a point blank shot from Joe Skaja (Yorktown, VA/Grafton) with a one-handed, diving stop. The WildCats kept the pressure on and netted the equalizer on another corner kick.
With 7:55 left in the game, Randolph scored the biggest goal in program history, again on a corner kick. Cornell lofted a ball far post and Will Wolf (Goldsboro, NC/Cardinal Gibbons) knocked it in to give the 'Cats a 2-1 lead. The defense would stand strong and as time ticked down to zero the field was inundated with hundreds of Randolph faithful.
"It's unbelievable to be at this point," said head coach Bryan Waggoner. "I've got to give hats off to my guys. Throughout the playoffs, we've gone down every single game and it shows their heart and desire and the will to win for the school. I know that was a big part if it they wanted to win it for the school and bring that ODAC title here.
The WildCats outshot their opponents 16-10 including an 11-3 edge in the second half. Randolph also scored on two of the six corner kicks it took, while LC had three corners on the evening. Releford made two saves on the evening, while Smith made four in the winning effort.
The victory earns the first ODAC title in a NCAA sanctioned sport since Randolph-Macon Woman's College earned a women's tennis title in 1983."They wanted it for each other," said Waggoner. "Us as coaches, all we can do is tell them the path to take if you wanna get to this point. They've taken that path and to see the fruits of their labor, I think it's really gonna help us moving forward."
Randolph will now wait to see where it will head in the NCAA Tournament. The selection show will be at 1 p.m. on Monday afternoon on NCAA.com.