LANCASTER, Pa. - A frenzied effort to force overtime in the final minutes of regulation came up short in a heartbreaking 1-0 loss for Franklin & Marshall's No. 17 ranked men's soccer team against Eastern in the NCAA Second Round on Sunday.
Another remarkable Diplomat season drew to a close with a 14-4-3 record while the Eagles move on to the Sweet 16 with an 18-2-2 overall mark.
F&M's offense controlled the pace of play from the onset of the first half but Eastern managed to strike first with a ninth-minute marker for the 1-0 edge. Billy Walenda set up the play with
a low pass to the center of the box where Sam Sutherland finished with a left-footed strike to the inside of the left post.
Possession was dominated by the Diplomats from there but the Eagles' defense stymied the attack with clutch saves and key clearances in the opening frame. Heading into the halftime break, F&M led in shots by a 10-7 margin, as well as corners at 2-0.
In the second, the Diplomats continued their attack in the offensive third with a barrage of scoring chances. An A.J. Kopacz free kick at midfield in the 64th minute nearly evened the score, but Eastern's goalkeeper stormed off his line and won the ball in the air.
F&M continued its relentless attack in the late stages of the period.
A header in the box from Okolie with two minutes remaining on the clock sailed just to the left of the post. Seconds later, Alex Lalovic had a golden attempt from 12 yards out, but his low shot was scooped up by the Eastern goalkeeper as time ran out before the Diplomats could answer with an equalizer.
The overall shot count was in F&M's favor at 19-9, including a 9-2 edge in the second half. Corners were closer at 4-2 for the Diplomats. Lalovic led the way with five shots, while Connor Whitacre was next with three.
Christopher Amoruso (7-4-3) was stellar in net with four stops, while Eastern's Anthony Hitchcock (14-0-1) earned the win with five saves.