Chicago, IL – Illinois Tech's season came to a cruel end on Saturday evening at Stuart Field as they went down to Nebraska Wesleyan University in a tense penalty shootout after dominating in regulation and overtime. The scores were locked at 1-1 during regulation time with Stephen Boakye and Bart Grabowski scoring for their respective teams. With neither team able to find a winner in extra time, the game went to the spot with the visiting Prairie Wolves prevailing 3-2. Illinois Tech outshot Nebraska Wesleyan 30-13 before the shootout.
Earlier in the evening, the Hawks began lively with a string of attempts inside the opening 10 minutes. IIT's Robert Rixer came closest when his shot from 25 yards rattled off the crossbar. However it was the visitors who drew first blood in the 11th minute via Stephen Boakye whose clever finish past EJ Yang gave the Nebraskan side a dream start. The lead was short lived when only 10 seconds after the restart; IIT's Bart Grabowski scored his second of the season to tie the scores up at one-a-piece. The goal started from the left side when freshman Alex Thompson's shot was parried away to Grabowski on the opposite wing. The sophomore from Munster, Indiana then dispatched the ball first time across the goalkeeper and into the back of the net to restore parity for the home side.
The second half produced numerous chances for both sides however the Scarlett Hawks looked the more likely to score. Unable to break the stalemate however, the game went into extra time for the 7th time in the Hawks 19 game season. From the get-go, Illinois Tech asserted their dominance creating a number of great chances but failing to capitalize. IIT's Rixer had a terrific opportunity stopped when his surging run was stopped at the eleventh hour with a desperate lunging tackle from the Wesleyan center back. Junior Brandon Ramirez had his 116th minute goal disallowed due to an offside call by the assistant referee. Freshman forward Tommy Gasienica had 8 total shots but was denied off the line by a defender and goal kicker saves.
The game would be decided from the 12-yard line. With IIT losing their only other 2013 penalty shootout in the championship game of the 2013 Scarlett Hawks Invite. Sophomore Samuel Smith shot first for IIT and held his nerve with a cool penalty to give the Hawks the early advantage. Wesleyan's Zach Lind responded with an equally impressive attempt to level the scores. Brandon Ramirez attempted to reinforce the home side's advantage but was denied by Wolves goalkeeper Turner Mead. Wesley Smith then converted for the visitors before Robert Rixer slotted home for IIT. EJ Yang then denied Alex Thorson with a brilliant save to his left to give Jorge Salas a chance to even the scores for the hosts. Salas was unable to convert from the spot with his shot sailing over the crossbar. With goal scorer Stephen Boakye stepping up and converting his penalty, it was up to IIT's Nordine Amlaiky to keep the Hawks in the contest. It wasn't to be however with the Frenchman putting his shot well high and giving the visitors a pulsating 3-2 win in the shootout.
The win meant Nebraska Wesleyan took home the Provisional-Independent Tournament cup and brought an end to an up-and-down season for the Scarlett Hawks. The defeat dropped Illinois Tech down to 6-9-4 record on the season and signaled an end to the college careers of Amlaiky, Rixer and Salas. The future looks bright for Illinois Tech with 12 players returning that started at least 12 games and welcome the return of several key starters that were out with injuries.