Players sat alone in the cold, damp grass of the field at the Eakes Sports Complex Thursday night. For the second season in a row the Bisons' season had ended in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Tournament on the campus of Campbell University.
The No.3-seeded Bisons, and the No.2-seeded Jacksonville Dolphins, battled to a 2-2 tie after regulation and two overtime periods.
The game was decided with penalty kicks. Each team picked five players to go one-on-one against the other teams goalkeeper. All four of Jacksonville's kickers scored while only freshman forward Garret Pettis found the net for the Bisons.
For a player like T.J. Williams, who finally left the field after words of consolation from coach Charles Morrow, it was his last game as a college player. For sophomore forward Miguel DaSilva and freshman goalkeeper Patrick Walsh, there will be another season and another shot at the A-Sun Championship.
So while the scene may have looked the same as it did last season when the Bisons fell 3-2 to Jacksonville in the semifinals at Stetson University in Deland, Fla., the feelings of the team are quite different.
“Last year after we lost I can remember the senior members of the team asking me what I was going to do next year,” said Morrow. “At the time I laughed and said we would be fine.
“This year after the loss there is a greater hope for the future because we are so young. But at the same time we are losing T.J. And Ricardo Atti and those are big losses.”
The Bisons allowed the first goal of the game when Kristian Lassen scored at 10:33.
At the 28:11 mark of the first half Bisons' midfielder Angel Chairez scored from the top right of the box with an assist from Williams.
At intermission the game was tied 1-1. The Bisons out shot Jacksonville 8-4 in the first 45 minutes.
In the second half the Bisons took a 2-1 lead as DaSilva scored on a one-on-one breakaway beating Jacksonville goalkeeper Joey Sanchez to the right side of the net.
It looked like the Bisons were going to move to the finals when Lassen scored his second goal of the game with 3:32 left to play in regulation.
Both teams had six shots in the second half. In the first overtime Jacksonville had the only shot. In the second overtime Lipscomb held a 4-3 edge. The Bisons also held a slight 8-7 advantage in shots on goal overall.
“I certainly thought that we deserved better in this game,” said Morrow. “I thought our team was better than a third seed, though that is the spot we earned.
“We fully anticipated coming here and winning it. We felt good about the penalty kick situation. I would still use the same players. We were just unlucky.”
The Bisons are 2-2 in A-Sun Tournament games with two wins in the quarterfinals and two losses in the semifinals.
“The thing we talked about a little after the game is that our goal is not to get past the semis and win the finals or to get to the finals,” said Morrow. “We just have to continue the same rate of improvement that we have had. If we can continue to improve like we have over the last three years or so we will be just fine.”
The Bisons finished 10-8-3 for the season. Jacksonville is 10-8-1.