DALTON, GA (dsroadrunners.com) - The Dalton State Roadrunners men’s soccer team made their Southern States Athletic Conference debut in grand fashion Thursday night, knocking off the preseason conference favorite and NAIA #10 Auburn University-Montgomery 2-1 in an overtime thriller. Both teams and a near capacity crowd were forced to contend with extremely tough conditions as a persistent rain and gusting winds battered the Lakeshore Park Soccer Complex.
Auburn Montgomery came out fast, spreading the field and showing the exquisite ball control that one would expect from a nationally ranked elite program. Their precision passing early on provided a number of early scoring opportunities, but ultimately the game’s first goal was the result of a direct kick that deflected off a Dalton State defender, giving the Warhawks of Auburn Montgomery the 1-0 lead.
The furious pace continued, but the young Roadrunner squad, led by a remarkable performance by freshman goalkeeper Diego Gonzalez were able to weather the early onslaught by Auburn Montgomery. Dalton State Coach Karem Daser said, “They were the better team in the first half and we survived the storm as they had many chances to score.” Daser went on to say, "Freshman Goalkeeper Diego was our MVP tonight as he had many amazing saves.”
Even as the #10 in the nation flexed their might, the youth laden Roadrunners began to find opportunities to advance the ball into the Warhawks half of the field as the first period of play began to wind down. The Roadrunners persistence paid off as they found themselves on the receiving end of a deflected corner kick the snuck past the outstretched arms of the Auburn Montgomery goalkeeper, tying the game at 1-1.
The Roadrunners came out energized in the second half of play and entertained the crowd with a defensive showcase that neutralized a Warhawks team that looked dominant in the first half. Both teams traded punches, but the goal keepers were the stars of the second half as they locked down their ends of the field and held each team scoreless forcing overtime.
In overtime, the Roadrunners showed the moxie of veteran team, making it hard to believe that the squad features 20 freshman. Even as they played a man down, the Roadrunners refused to give in, tenaciously fighting for every ball, and putting the Warhawks on the defensive. The relentless play paid off as Freshman Jose Daniel Villalobos scored amazing Golden Goal header to win the game. Coach Daser said, “My team showed so much Character as we won this match over a great team with 10 players. Proud of my team and now we will get ready for our next Conference game Saturday night 7pm.”
With the win the Roadrunners move to 8-2-1 on the season and 1-0 in SSAC play. The #10 Warhawks fall to 6-4-1 on the season and 0-1 in SSAC conference play.
Dalton State will return to action on Saturday, October 3rd at 7:00 P.M. as they battle conference foe Faulkner at the Lakeshore Soccer Complex