Luke Jeffus OT goal lifts TU soccer to NCAA tournament’s third round

Luke Jeffus picked a good time to score his first goal of the season.

The University of Tulsa junior midfielder scored 2:52 into overtime to help lead the Golden Hurricane to a 1-0 double overtime victory over Georgetown Sunday night at the Hurricane Soccer and Track Complex, sending TU into the NCAA tournament’s third round for the second straight season.

“It was good to get a win under our belt; I thought Luke did an excellent job with that ball that came out, tremendous finish, so super-happy for him,” said Tulsa coach Tom McIntosh. “Obviously, Georgetown’s a really good team and they made it really difficult. It was back and forth, they had some chances, we had a few and we’re fortunate that we got the win.”

Tulsa (10-4-2), the overall No. 15 seed in the 48-team tournament, advances to the third round to take on Creighton at home either next Saturday or Sunday. Creighton, which beat Georgetown 3-0 last weekend in the Big East final, advanced by taking down the overall No. 2 seed, Washington, 3-1 Sunday night.

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This puts TU back to the same point they reached last season, when they defeated Creighton at home in the second round to reach the third, where they fell 1-0 in double overtime to West Virginia on this same pitch. The Golden Hurricane spent all season trying to get back to this point, but had lost its previous two games, a 3-2 decision to SMU to drop to fourth in the AAC, then a 2-1 double overtime loss to Memphis in the AAC quarterfinals on Nov. 6.

“It’s been a journey and we don’t want that same feeling we had last year,” Jeffus said. “We’re just going to keep fighting until the end.”

As for the non-golden goal, Jeffus received a short pass back from Malik Henry-Scott and then, from about 12 yards out, drilled a low shot past the feet of two Georgetown defenders and just inside the left goalpost.

“It’s a really good feeling, my first goal of the season, so happy to get that,” Jeffus said, who also has four assists. “Our coaches told us all week, we got to run forward on the weak side because their left back stays high, so it happened, the ball came to me, I put it in the back of the net. It felt good.”

With the new NCAA rule this season, the OT goal was not automatically a game winner. Teams now play out two 10-minute overtime periods whether someone scores or not, so Tulsa still had to defend that lead for another 17 minutes.

Georgetown dominated the second OT period, pouring on the pressure and nearly converting several times. With 7:44 left, Jack Panayotou fed a pass into the middle for a charging Kieran Sargeant, who re-directed a sliding shot on goal but TU goalkeeper Alex Lopez made the save. Then with 2:07 to go, Maximus Jennings delivered a nice cross into the box to Max Viera, whose 5-yard header sailed just over the crossbar.

“We obviously didn’t want to defend as much as we had to defend (in overtime), but they did a good job putting pressure on us,” McIntosh said. “I thought we could have done some things better in terms of holding the ball, winning a second ball, just making a couple of better decisions in those moments, but I’m super-proud of the guys to come away with the win against a very good team.”

It was a disappointing ending for Georgetown (12-6-3), which defeated Navy 2-0 on Thursday in the first round and had been 11-1-1 in its previous 13 outings, with the only defeat coming to Creighton last week. The Hoyas, who won the national title in 2019, reached the national semifinals last year before falling to 2-1 to Washington.

With temperatures dipping into the low 30s with wind chill, Tulsa enjoyed the territorial advantage over a 10-minute span late in the second half, and nearly snapped the scoreless tie with 9:24 remaining when a corner kick by Alvaro Torrijos sailed into the box for a point-blank shot by Mariano Fazio, but Georgetown goalkeeper Ryan Schewe made the save.

Each team had stretches of play where it controlled the action in a very even, tightly-contested match. Overall, Tulsa outshot Georgetown 15-14, and had a 6-3 edge in shots on goal.

“I thought we were close to really breaking it open, obviously took a long time,” McIntosh said. “That’s what these games are about. We were talking about it, it’s going to be a 110-minute game and as long as we keep it level, we give ourselves a chance. We kept it level and obviously Luke did a great job with his goal. … I thought overall, the guys defended really well, that’s what we got to do this time of year.”

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