Clutch goals lift Mavs in RMAC

Colorado Mesa scored two goals in the final five minutes Friday to defeat the Colorado School of Mines 2-1 in the RMAC men’s soccer tournament semifinals at Regis University in Denver.

Marco Escobar tied the game with a touch goal assisted by Ethan Johnson in the 86th minute, then Tim Hofer scored the winner on a header from Mike Bagheri with 1 1/2 minutes left.

“We made some adjustments and started pushing players forward,” CMU coach Josh Pittman said. “I don’t remember who it was, but he made a great cross. Marco got in behind them and made as nice a touch in a critical moment as there is and finished. That was probably the most incredible clutch goal I’ve seen … up until that point.

“Two-and-a-half minutes later Tim Hofer scored an even bigger goal from Mike and buried it with his head.”

The Mavericks (12-5-3) advance to their first RMAC championship match in the program’s seven-year history. Mesa plays No. 23 Regis (13-2-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Regis.

Even if Mesa wins the RMAC tournament title, it is not guaranteed its first NCAA tournament berth in school history, because the automatic qualifier was dropped when the Mavs and the RMAC moved to the South Central Region last year.

Pittman, though, remains hopeful the Mavericks will receive one of three NCAA bids from the region the RMAC shares with the Heartland Conference.

“I think we need to beat Regis on Sunday to get in. Mines was No. 2 in regional ranking. I believe we can get ahead of one of these teams if we win on Sunday,” Pittman said.

Mines (11-6-1) had more chances to score than the Mavericks with 12 shots, but only three on goal. Mesa had six shots and netted the two it took on goal.

“Their chances weren’t significant,” Pittman said. “The momentum changed about halfway through the first half. They were getting into our half, but their shots were not dangerous. It was a feeling-out in the first half.”

The Orediggers took a 1-0 lead when RMAC player of the year Tesho Akindele got behind RMAC goalkeeper of the year Micah Conrads and scored in the 59th minute.

“We made a terrible mistake,” Pittman said. “Micah was caught in no-man’s land. Tesho got behind him and scored. It was the worst goal we’ve given up all season.”

Mines held on to the 1-0 lead until there was 4:45 left in the match.

“We were fighting, but didn’t have too many chances. The last five minutes we were throwing players forward and made the adjustment we needed to make,” Pittman said.

“We were very resilient. I’m very happy and pleased with the opportunity.”


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