Virginia Wesleyan outlasts Berry in 11-10 thriller

Josh Currier
Josh Currier

VIRGINIA BEACH -- Exams are still weeks away for Virginia Wesleyan College's students, but Rory Finnegan passed a pressure-packed test Sunday.

The Marlins' junior goalie produced two huge saves to help guide Virginia Wesleyan to a thrilling 11-10 non-conference victory over Georgia's previously undefeated Berry College on Foster Field at the Trinder Center.

The visiting Vikings stepped up their attack in the final three minutes to try to find the goal to tie the game after Virginia Wesleyan (2-0) scored two electrifying goals by Nick Pappas (Edgewater, Md./South River) and Joe Papetti (Edgewater, Md./South River) to take an 11-10 lead with 3:15 on the clock. 

Berry worked the ball around patiently to find an opening in the VWC defense as time ticked off the clock.  With 2:22 remaining Nate Mayer (Palm Harbor, Fla./Palm Harbor University School) fired a hard shot, only to see Finnegan (Lowell, Mass./Lowell) step up to make the save, evoking a roar from the partisan crowd. 

After a Virginia Wesleyan shot and turnover, and one timeout by each team, Berry had the ball with 28 seconds on the clock. Once again the Vikings moved the ball patiently until James Kurlia (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty) maneuvered in front of the goal for a shot in a one-on-one situation with Finnegan.  The shot was there, but so was Finnegan who stopped the ball and fired it out to the Marlins who maintained possession for the final seconds.

It was a thrilling finish to a highly competitive game that started with Virginia Wesleyan bolting out to a 3-0 lead behind two goals from sophomore Josh Currier (Peterborough, Ontario/Holy Cross-Hill Academy) and one from rookie Andre Brummit (Baltimore, Md./Glen Burnie North County) in the first seven mintues.

Virginia Wesleyan led 3-1 after the first quarter and 4-3 at halftime, but Berry came on strong in the third quarter to post a 7-5 lead.  Maxwell Smerka (Hartford, Ga./Northgate) scored twice to help the Vikings to take the lead.

Pappas scored at the 13:05 mark of the fourth quarter to tie the game, but Berry answered quickly with a goal by Bryan Byers (Woodstock, Ga./Etowah) to lead 8-6.

Virginia Wesleyan dominated after that however, scoring five of the next seven goals.  A goal by Papetti cut the Berry lead to 8-7 at 11:01 and a score by Pappas tied the game at 8-all with 10:16 on the clock.  The Marlins took the lead 32 seconds later when Currier fired the ball in off an assist from junior Mike Moran (Woolwich, N.J./Kingsway)

Berry came back with goals by Byers and Cory Hall (Suwanee, Ga./Peachtree Ridge) to move in front at 10-9 with 8:35 remaining, but the lead would not stick.

Currier came up with a stunning pass to Pappas, who fired the ball past the goalier to tie the game at 5:54 and Moran produced the assist to Papetti for what turned out to be the game winning shot with 3:15 on the clock.

Pappas and Currier finished with four goals each and Papetti recorded two.  Currier, Pappas, and Moran alll recorded two assists each, and rookie Trenton Gahm (White Bear Lake, Minn./White Bear Lake) and Papetti had one each. 

Smerka and Byers led Berry with three goals each.  

Virginia Wesleyan finished with a 36-33 edge in shots  and a 46-35 advantage in ground balls.  

Finnegan recorded 13 saves for the Marlins and Jordan Boreman (Wooster, Ohio/Wooster) finished with seven for Berry.

Virginia Wesleyan returns to competition on Saturday, March 8, hosting Elizabethtown College at 1 p.m.