Marshall head soccer coach Pat Johnson was about to get his lineup ready for a shootout near the end of the second overtime of Tuesday's first-round Section 2A match against Willmar when Cardinals' senior Remigio Becerra saved him the trouble with a goal in the 98th minute of play.
Becerra's goal sent seventh-seeded Willmar past the 10th-seeded Marshall 1-0 in what was a hard-fought, defensive battle on a blustery afternoon. The Cardinals advance to face No. 2 seed Mankato West on Saturday.
Johnson said the teams refused to give each other many good looks at goal throughout the match.
"They're a good defending team and didn't give us many chances, but we didn't give them many either," he said. "We had Alex Buysse and Ayub Awale marking their forwards and those two didn't give them a good shot the whole game. They just played outstanding."
The Tigers had the wind at the back in the first half, when they had a couple of scoring opportunities that they couldn't capitalize on. The second half saw the Cardinals take advantage of the wind and get a couple of chances, but they too were unable to find the net.
The two teams entered the first of two 10-minute, sudden death overtime periods, and Marshall again had a couple of near misses, this time by Bryce Johnson and Bilal Ali. Willmar also had a shot hit off the post, and it seemed the two teams were destined for a shootout before Becerra's decisive strike.
Along with the defensive exploits of Buysse and Awale, Johnson said Tiger goalkeeper Paul Citrowske also had a strong effort in net.
Marshall, which started the season slow with five straight losses, picked up its play as the season went on and finished with a 4-10 overall record.
Pat Johnson said the leadership of senior captains Trevor Johnson, Ethan Hart and Isac Evenson helped him tremendously in his first season at the helm of the program.
"We had a great season," Pat Johnson said. "We came into camp with a small amount of players, but the kids just made great progress throughout the season. They really worked hard and learned to play together.
"Our last nine games, we were in every one of them. A lot of those were against some really good competition. We would have liked to win a few more, but the team still played great and we had some new kids come out who really learned to play the game."