Blacksburg, Va. – After a hard fought battle on a cold and windy Thompson field, Air Force came up short of a comeback in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Falcons conclude their record-breaking season at 14-3-3.
The Falcons and Hokies played to a scoreless first half highlighted by two Air Force shots on net and a stellar diving save across the frame by senior goalkeeper John Wendt who logged three saves on the half.
Air Force controlled the possession for the opening 10 minutes, keeping Tech on their heels as they settled into the Falcons high-speed pace of play. The Falcons showed their ability to penetrate the Hokies’ defense as Jaric Marton and Austin Dewing sent dangerous crosses from deep inside the box, putting the Tech fan base in a nail-biting fever.
The stout Air Force defense led by Trey Pujats and Oscar Chacon, anchored by defensive veterans James Sims and Nick Blessing, looked comfortable in keepings Tech’s offense at bay.
The match took a turn for Tech early in the second half as an errant pass led to a Hokie two-on-one fast break and subsequent goal. Moments later a Tech header from within the Falcons box was deflected by Wendt but fell back to the shooter who re-fired the ball into the far corner of the goal.
Undeterred by the two-goal deficit, Wendt continued to fire up his defensive line in an attempt to return the momentum back in Air Force’s favor. The Falcons continued to battle vigorously with a pair of near strikes from Dewing.
In the 73rd minute coach Hill subbed in his firepower, forgoing a defenseman for an additional attacker. The move proved to work in Hill’s favor as Air Force dominated the possession for the final 10 minutes of the match; however, the Falcons were unable to punch one in past the ACC first-team keeper, Ben Lundgaard.
At the final whistle, Wendt recorded a season-high nine saves. Dewing led the offensive charge with four shots, three coming on goal. The senior squad has good reason to keep their heads high as they led the Falcons to a program-high 11-1 home record, 10 shutouts and a program-first WAC season title. Air Force also recorded a program-best eight players to All-WAC teams.