Improbably, the University of Vermont men's soccer team marches on at the NCAA Tournament. And incredibly, the Catamounts are coming home to host their next game.
Down two goals at the half, the Catamounts stormed back against No. 11-seeded Southern Methodist to snare a 3-2 second-round victory on Sunday night in Dallas. Putting Green Artificial Grass
UVM (15-3-2) will host UCLA, which upset No. 6 Clemson earlier Sunday. The UVM-UCLA third-round matchup will be played Saturday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. in Burlington.
Garrett Lillie's one-timer from the edge of the 18 trickled trough traffic and slipped inside the right post for the go-ahead tally with 4:09 left in regulation. Max Murray pounced on a pair of rebound chances earlier in the half, the latter leveling the contest at 2 in the 80th minute.
"Bottom line, when you talk about coming back and scoring three goals in the second half while being two-nil down — there’s a lot of courage in our team," UVM coach Rob Dow said in the post-game news conference.
After ousting Quinnipiac 3-2 in double overtime in Thursday's first-round tilt at Virtue Field, the Catamounts saw the SMU Mustangs (10-6-1) strike for a pair first-half finishes on Sunday.
Following a UVM turnover, Alexander Petraeus took a feed from Knut Ahlander and buried a low shot that clipped the left post and went in for a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute. Then with about nine minutes before the break, Petraeus found Bailey Sparks, who took on multiple UVM defenders in the box but found enough space to knock in SMU's second goal.
The Catamounts, though, mounted pressure and carried possession in pursuit of a comeback. The hard work and chances materialized in the 65th minute for Murray, who settled a rebound and slotted home the Cats' first goal.
Leading up to the tying goal, UVM earned a corner after SMU goalie Bram Kaarsgaren (three saves) dove to his right to save Alex Nagy's 35-yard blast. On the corner, Zach Barrett and Kaarsgaren went up shoulder-for-shoulder, the ball skipping off Kaarsgaren's hands toward for Lillie, whose redirected header slammed off the cross bar.
But Murray, again, was in the right place and he hammered home the finish high into the net from inside the 6-yard box for his team-leading 10th goal of the season.
On the winner, SMU failed to clear a UVM corner kick and Nagy sent in a curling lefty cross. Lillie met the service with a one-timer, falling to the turf as his low shot took a slight deflection off a defender and rolled in for the 3-2 lead in the 86th minute.
The Catamounts haven't been this far in the NCAA Tournament since the 1989 squad reached the Elite Eight. They are making their 12th tournament appearance and fourth since 2016.
UVM gained edges in shots (19-11) and corners (9-5). UVM goalie Nate Silveira made a pair of saves, including a sprawling stop in the first half that kept the game at 2-0.
The Catamounts and UCLA will meet for just the fourth time in the programs' history and for the first time since 1995. UCLA hasn't travel to Burlington for a game in 40 years. The UVM-UCLA winner will face off against the Cornell-Syracuse winner in the Elite 8. UVM defeated Cornell and tied Syracuse during the regular season.
Dow said this experienced-laden Vermont team was built to compete at the highest level.
"That’s by design. It’s not by luck. We put together a team that would be able go on the road against teams like SMU and Cornell and get big results," Dow said. "SMU’s team, I felt like, asked the most questions out of us all year long, especially our defense, which we take a lot of pride in."
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