The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference men’s soccer tournament began with the Roadrunners upsetting the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers in overtime 2-1 on Nov. 2. Jeff Gillis had both goals for MSU Denver.
With the victory, the Runners advance to the RMAC semifinals for the first time since 2012 and improved their chances at advancing to the NCAA National Championship tournament, which they have not participated in since 2011.
MSU Denver controlled the game early and came very close to scoring on two occasions, but failed to capitalize. Then, 29 minutes into the match, the Orediggers received a red card that forced them to play the remainder of the match with 10 men against the Runners’ 11. The disadvantage didn’t prevent the Orediggers’ forward John Haist from scoring with only two minutes remaining in the first half.
When asked what he said to his team at halftime, head coach Jeremy Tittle said, “I just asked them to be brave. I felt like we were a little tentative, a little cautious in the first half. Before the red card and before they scored it just felt like we were a little too cautious about the game, and you can’t win when you’re playing cautious.”
After the speech, Jeff Gillis took control of the game. He got the Runners on the scoreboard 10 minutes into the second half with a perfectly placed shot to the bottom left hand corner of the net. The team controlled
the ball and put constant pressure on the Orediggers for the majority of the second half, but couldn’t produce another goal in regulation.
Regulation ended tied at 1-1, but spectators wouldn’t have to wait long to see a result. Gillis scored his second goal only one minute into the sudden death overtime period, sealing the win for the Runners. Gillis was asked about the sequence of events that led to the goal.
“(Nolan) Barth threw it into Josh (Belfrage) who had a great turn and slipped it through, and I just saw it bouncing and I knew I had to get over it, and it went right over the keeper’s right hand and into the left side.”
The Runners will now face the Colorado Mesa Mavericks on Nov. 4 in Grand Junction in the semifinals. They ended the regular season with an away loss and a home draw against the Mavericks.