The season opener for Westmont men’s soccer proved to be a thriller, but in an overtime finish, No. 8 Graceland of Iowa defeated the Warriors 3-2.

The 2006 NAIA national champions picked up the win off the foot of Edson Edward, who scored about five minutes into the overtime period in the opening game of the Cougar Classic at Azusa Pacific.

“It was a pretty good game against a pretty good team,” head coach Dave Wolf said. “But it was a disappointing finish after fighting back twice to tie the game. It’s a shame not to have walked away without at least a tie.”

Graceland opened the scoring in the 19th minute when Diego Gonzalez headed in a pass from Jeffrey Darkwah. The Warriors didn’t even the game until the 68th minute when senior forward Andrew Schneider scored off an assist by sophomore forward Harrison Hill. It marked the first goal for Schneider and first assist for Hill in Warrior uniforms.

Jake Joyner got the ball deep in the box,” Wolf said. “He showed a lot of patience to resist taking a shot that wasn’t there. Instead, he laid it to Harrison, who also remained calm and made a nice pass to Andy, who finished it off with the inside of his foot.”

Less than five minutes later, Graceland regained the lead when Darkwah scored assisted by Aaron Cairns. In the 80th minute, Westmont picked up a second equalizer when Hill scored his first collegiate goal by heading in a cross from senior midfielder Jonathan Schoff.

“Schoffy beat Graceland’s left back on the dribble and made a great cross to Harrison, which just eliminated the keeper,” Wolf said. “All Harrison had to do was head the ball in the empty net.”

Less than two minutes before the end of regulation, Graceland’s Orrin Branker suffered a neck injury.

“It looked like he was going to be OK, but they took every precaution,” Wolf said. “There was about a 20-minute delay while they brought an ambulance onto the field.”

The Warriors will complete their participation in the Cougar Classic at Azusa Pacific at 1 p.m. Saturday when Westmont takes on the Wildcats of Bethel, Tenn. Bethel and top-ranked Azusa Pacific battled to a 1-1 in double-overtime in the second game of the day in Azusa. 

The Wildcats will be without the services of sophomore midfielders Erik Rosas and Armando Orozco in Saturday’s game because of red cards received in Friday’s matchup with Azusa Pacific. Orozco scored Bethel’s solitary goal against the Cougars.

Ron Smith is Westmont College‘s sports information director.