Playing with all the heart and courage of a team that has faced adversity all year, William and Mary battled a more talented and experienced Alabama A&M team even for 89:25 before succumbing, 1-0, in an NCAA quarterfinal soccer game today.
Senior center-forward Luke Whitley scored the only goal of the game with 35 seconds left with a header past Williams and Mary goalie Steve Gallop. Whitley fielded an excellent pass from the right side Gebru Woldeamanuel and laid it softly over Gallop's head from about 12 yards out.
With the victory before a William and Mary record crowd of 2,600, the second-ranked Bulldogs (18-0-2), moved to the Division I semifinals in Tampa this weekend against the winner of today's St. Louis-San Francisco game. However, the predominantly foreign-born team (11 players from Nigeria, three from Jamaica) had to play much harder than it had expected to get there, according to A&M Coach Tim Hankinson.
"This was probably our toughest, closest game of the year," said Hankinson, whose team had outscored opponents, 86-5, before today. "We thought they would lay back and play defense like most teams do, but they came right at us."
Indeed, the Indians (14-7-1) did, although A&M controlled the game three fourths of the time. The home team, which endured numerous injuires in midseason before making a strong comback, was outshot, 26-9, for the game and 14-2 in the second half. Superb defensive work by Gallop (13 saves) and fullbacks Rob Olson (robinson High School), Steve Graine and John Bray (both Hayfield High School graduates) stopped a number of A&M's threats in the second half.
"They don't have a weak player on the team," said junior right wing Mark Gardiner (falls Church High School) admiringly. "But we were very relaxed going into the game. We wanted to be tough on defense and counterattack on offense. We weren't intimidated."