Chicago, Il - Brandon Ramirez and Roman Zwarycz starred as IIT men's soccer fought off two late equalizers to defeat Lawrence Tech and book a place in Monday's tournament championship game against Waldorf College.
With the game locked at 2-2, Ramirez picked the ball up on the left flank before dribbling inside and firing home a low strike from 25 yards to beat Lawrence keeper Grady Beerck. The 88th minute winner was Ramirez's first goal for IIT and it could not have come at a better time against a stubborn Lawrence Tech side.
Earlier in the day, Roman Zwarycz gave the Scarlet Hawks a dream start with a clinical finish after just 3 minutes. Ramirez found space on the ball in the middle of the park before dispatching a deft chip over the Lawrence Tech backline. Zwarycz, who at first glance appeared to be offside, latched onto the ball and calmly slotted it past the oncoming keeper to give the Hawks a 1-nil lead.
Freshman forward Samuel Smith had a glorious chance on the half hour mark to double the home side's lead, but his volley went narrowly wide of the upright. Ramirez went closer on the stroke of halftime but his shot on the edge of the box sailed just over the crossbar. The halftime whistle ended a fairly scrappy affair with the hawks carrying a 1-0 advantage into the locker room.
The second half started with much of the pedestrian pace seen in the first half with neither team able to adapt particularly well to the wet Stuart Field surface. Jorge Salas came closest for the Hawks with a well-directed free kick on the hour mark, but Beerck anticipated well to make the save. With Hawks keeper, Bart Grabowski, barely troubled, it appeared that the home side would cruise to their first victory of the season.
However with 12 minutes remaining, Lawrence Tech's Tyler Jugon stunned the home crowd with an unstoppable drive from 30 yards, giving Grabowski no chance as he watched the ball sail into the top corner. The goal appeared to spring the Hawks back to life and it took only 40 seconds to muster a response. Ramirez was again in the thick of the action, this time making a great run down the right wing before sliding the ball across the face of goal to an onrushing Zwarycz who prodded home the ball on his second attempt after being initially denied by the woodwork.
But there was more drama to ensue and in the 85th minute, Lawrence Tech equalized for a second time with Justin Ritchey taking advantage of some lackluster IIT defending to make the score 2-2.
However the Scarlet Hawks would have the last say with Ramirez's stunning effort, 3 minutes from time, sealing the 3 points and sending the home crowd into raptures.
Illinois Tech returns to action on Monday in the championship match of the Scarlet Hawks Invite at 3:30 pm versus Waldorf at 3:30 pm. Lawrence Tech plays Purdue Calumet at 1 pm in the 3rd Place match.