Heading into the second week of Region 2 play, the Eastern Men had every reason to doubt themselves and were badly in need of a spark to get back into contention in Region 2 play. The Mountaineers traditionally test themselves with a tough early schedule including some of the top teams in the country and were off to a 2-1 start prior to suffering a string of 3 straight defeats. On Sunday, they found that spark in the form of a 3-2 come-from-behind win on the road at Rose State. The win was the first for Eastern against Rose State in Coach Evan's three years at the helm.
Rose State went up 1-0 17 minutes into the game on a corner kick and it looked like the Mountaineers would adhere to the same script they had followed in recent days. Unfortunately for the Rose State Raiders, these Mountain Men had other plans. Eastern roared in front with 2 goals in 2 minutes roughly 32 minutes into the first half. First, freshmen left back Grady Verner and sophomore defensive stalwart Dani Huerta hooked up on a free kick for Huerta's first goal in his Eastern career and Verner's first assist. Just moments later, sophomore leader Alpha Diallo turned the corner and beat the Rose State back line before he and sophomore winger Lucas Teixeira combined with Jose Maria Ruarte to put Eastern in front 2-1. Eastern would maintain the lead going into the half. In fact, Eastern looked destined to put the game away several times before a persistent Rose State Team, the two-time defending Region 2 conference champion, leveled the score at 2 in the 84th minute. Faced with the possibility of going into sudden-death overtime on the road and dropping points for the 4th successive match, the Mountaineers took matters into their own hands when freshmen back Adrian Lopez picked up a pass in the final third from freshmen midfielder Xavi Grainger and served a ball to the back post and an onrushing Verner for the game-winner with 10 seconds to spare.
- The Mountaineers picked up their first conference win of the season.
- Dani Huerta scored his first career goal.
- Grady Verner picked up his first points at Eastern with an assist and a game winning goal.
- Adrian Lopez picked up his first career assist in an Eastern uniform.
- Lucas Teixeira got on the stat sheet for the first time in an Eastern uniform with his assist on Ruarte's 5th goal of the young season.
- Carlos Dias Neto went the distance, playing 90 minutes in goal and picking up 5 saves in the process.
- Eastern out shot Rose State 17-14 with an 8-5 advantage in shots on target.
Coach Jon Evan said: "I am proud and pleased for our young men and our leadership this afternoon. They got lost in the competition and focused on what they could control in terms of their attitude, effort and concentration on our process and playing the right way. We're learning to embrace the struggle of the daily grind of being a college student-athlete, fitness issues, injuries, officiating, playing conditions, travel schedules, and tough opponents, but most of all to be resilient and persevere regardless of circumstance. Today's game was a microcosm of our season with a lot of ups and downs. It would have been easy to give in against a quality Rose State team with players and coaches who know how to close out games, but our guys refused to go down without a fight."
Coach E added, "The young men knew that we needed to pick up points to get into the Region 2 race and they played with a great deal of pride tonight. We know we have a long way to go and we can get better in all aspects of our game individually and collectively, but it was great to watch them compete tonight. They were determined from the time they took the field they weren't going to be denied. As a coach your greatest satisfaction is seeing your team play hard for each other and continue to grow. I will be grateful if they continue to do that as I am for their performance and their poise today." Coach Evan continued, "Rose State is a tough team and well-coached. I fully expect them to be there at the end. They made us fight for everything we earned here today. We're going to enjoy the win tonight with our friends and family who traveled to support us and get back to work this week in preparation for Rich Mountain on Thursday."
Eastern returns home to face the University of Arkansas Rich Mountain on Thursday, Sept. 26 in Wilburton in the annual "Sara's Team" game to support the JDRF and Type 1 diabetes research. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.