HPU Men’s Soccer Panthers Edged by Blue Devils, 3-2, in OT

• High Point suffered its first defeat of the season, 3-2, in overtime at Duke
• Sophomores Jonathan Bolanos and Connor Cesar scored their first goals of the season for HPU
• Redshirt-sophomore Keegan Meyer set a new career-high with six saves.

DURHAM, N.C. – The High Point University men’s soccer team pushed Duke to overtime on Friday afternoon before ultimately falling 3-2 at Koskinen Stadium. The loss was the first of the season for the Panthers.

“There are a lot of factors you have to face playing on the road in the ACC,” head coach EJ O’Keeffe said. “Duke is a complete and well-coached team. We were marvelous in the second half and deserved more out of the game. Unfortunately, we had to deal with factors other than just Duke in the final minutes.”

Neither team was able to gain momentum through the first half-hour of the match with steady defense on both sides. High Point’s first opportunity came in the 31st minute off a solid run by sophomore Connor Cesar down the right flank. Once into the box, he slid a pass through a maze of defenders to sophomore Siggi Benonysson, whose shot went right to a waiting Will Pulisic, Duke’s goalkeeper.

The Blue Devils (3-0-0) struck first in the 35th minute on a free kick from 25 yards out. Suniel Veerakone curled a ball in from the left side that evaded the first two Blue Devils. However, Matthias Frick crashed the far right post and was able to head it past HPU’s Keegan Meyer for a 1-0 lead.

High Point (2-1-0) seized momentum out of the halftime break, dominating possession in the first 10 minutes. After just one shot on goal in the first stanza, HPU earned three free kicks and put four shots on net in the span.

The fourth shot, coming in the 55th minute, turned into the Panthers’ first goal. After being awarded a corner kick, sophomore Ryan Inman delivered a beautiful arcing pass to sophomore Jonathan Bolanos, who headed it above the outstretched arms of Pulisic to even the match.

HPU continued to press after evening the match, and found the go-ahead goal in the 68th minute. Senior Ebe Kudolo deked a Duke defender and left a pass for Cesar, who bombed a shot from just outside the box to the top left corner to lift HPU ahead 2-1.

Duke pushed for the tying goal in the final 20 minutes during a driving rainstorm. The Blue Devils ultimately drew even in the 88th minute on a header by Markus Fjortoft following a strong cross from Brandon Williamson.

The Blue Devils continued their momentum in overtime, firing two shots in the first two minutes that required Meyer saves. In the 96th minute, a long cross from the left side was nearly punched away by Meyer, but Duke’s Ciaran McKenna was able to head it past the Panther keeper for the winning tally.

Duke ended up with a 19-6 edge in shots, including 4-0 in overtime. Meyer made a career-high six saves in the match for HPU. The contest featured seven yellow cards, including five on the Panthers in the final 20 minutes of action.

The Purple & White will take a week off from game action before retuning to the pitch on Friday, September 8 at Elon. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.