SAN MARCOS, CA – The Royals put their unbeaten record on the line once again in the 2017 season with a tough test against NCAA DII CSU San Marcos at the Cougars' home field. The Royals trailed for much of the match but never lost hope and finally drew with the Cougars in double overtime on the road.
The match did not remain scoreless for long as a dangerous front line for the Cougars continued to probe the Royals' defenders for weaknesses. Midway through the 13th minute of play a card was whistled against an HIU center back for pulling down a CSUSM player on a header try, resulting in a penalty kick for the Cougars. The ensuing kick was converted on the left side of the net foe the early 1-0 lead in favor of CSUSM.
Not to be outdone, the Royals were able to answer 12 minutes later after generating a penalty kick opportunity of their own. Freshman John Mejia took the shot for HIU and slotted an equalizer passed the keeper for the 1-1 tally in the 25th minute.
The match continued to be a competitive possession battle through the halftime whistle, but the Royals found themselves behind at the break after a CSUSM player broke free just long enough to launch a strike towards Ryan Brown. Brown made the initial save but couldn't hang on and a second Cougar slotted the ricochet back into the net for a 2-1 lead at the break.
Brown began the second half with a pair of big saves in the early moments of the second half to keep the Royals' hopes alive – 53 seconds into the second period, Brown was left one-on-one with a CSUSM striker on a breakaway and made a hard-charging stop that resulted in a yellow card for himself and a PK for the Cougars. Brown made a diving save on the ensuing kick, however, and moments later made another high-effort deflection to keep the score 2-1 in favor of CSUSM.
Mejia had a great chance to net an equalizer for HIU with 13 minutes left in the match after a long clearing kick from Brown turned into a one-on-one opportunity on the counterattack. A diving save at the last possible second by the CSUSM keeper averted the danger for the home team and kept the score at 2-1.
It looked like HIU had exhausted its opportunities as CSUSM dialed up heavy pressure with its forwards to trap the Royals in their own end, but a final desperate push paid off with less than five minutes in regulation remaining. With 2:43 showing on the clock, Pedro Mendoza took a ball played in over the top by Rafael Arroyo and worked a two-man game with his brother Steven Mendoza before lacing a beautiful strike into the left corner for the equalizer.
A last-minute counter from CSUSM was shut down by the Royals' back line to send the match into overtime for the Royals' second extra-time match of the season and their second in as many matches, as well. HIU looked like the more dangerous team in the first overtime period as Joel Palomares had several early opportunities to end the match, but a great save by the CSUSM keeper kept the match alive.
Neither side found twine in the first OT period and the match continued into the second period of extra time. Bacilio Hernandez led a last-second charge up the field in the second half but neither side would net a game-winner, resulting in a 2-2 draw to keep HIU unbeaten in the 2017 season. HIU remains the only undefeated team in the GSAC with a win over an NAIA Top 10 opponent and now a draw with NCAA DII foe CSUSM.
"This was a tale of two halves!" Coach Joe Lurker said after the match's completion. "We did not show up in the first half but we played great [beginning] 10 minutes into the second – Ryan saving the PK sparked our game and we didn't look back. I'm proud of our guys for fighting to the end on tired legs after back-to-back overtime games in the last three days!"
The Royals now travel to face a pair of CalPac opponents with a match at Providence Christian on Saturday, Sept. 9 and a match at La Sierra on Sept. 14 before returning home to open GSAC competition against Arizona Christian on Thursday, Sept. 21. Be sure to tune in via hiuroyals.com or travel to support your Royals as they look to complete an undefeated preseason for the second straight season in the coming weeks.