The Rockhurst men’s soccer team traveled to the Southeast for its first two NCAA Division II Final Four appearances.
On Thursday, the Hawks instead woke up at home with their latest national semifinal opportunity only five miles from campus.
But the conclusion was reminiscent of the previous two.
Charleston (W.Va.) ended Rockhurst’s bid for its first national title with a 2-1 victory in Thursday’s semifinal match at Swope Soccer Village.
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The Hawks, 18-3-3, have reached the NCAA Division II Final Four in three of the past four seasons, losing each time.
“I think everybody kind of felt that this was our year,” Rockhurst senior forward Mitch Moncada said. “It’s a surprise. Anything can happen at this point, but we definitely thought we would go farther than this.”
Moncada gave Rockhurst a one-goal advantage midway through the first half — their first lead in a NCAA Division II semifinal — but Charleston needed only 10 minutes after halftime to pounce twice. Will Roberts had the equalizer, and Felipe Antonio supplied the game-winner in the 55th minute.
Rockhurst put a pair of close-range shots on goal in the final two minutes, but the Hawks couldn’t find the tying goal in front of a vocal pro-Rockhurst crowd.
“If you go by ball possession, they were better than us,” Rockhurst coach Tony Tocco said. “When you just come down to opportunities, we had some really good shots on goal. They had some. And they scored one more.”
It was another bitter ending for Rockhurst, which has appeared in the Final Four 13 times. Tocco ranks second in career men’s college soccer coaching victories. But the search for the first national title will carry into 2017.
It once looked promising Thursday. Moncada struck in the 33rd minute. He collected the ball near midfield, then out-ran the Charleston defense until Charleston keeper Paulo Pita greeted him in the penalty area. Moncada reacted with a left-footed shot that clipped the far post before skidding across the goal line.
Charleston equalized less than four minutes after halftime, with Roberts absorbing a pass from Jermaine Windster and finding the back of the net. Windster set up Antonio only six minutes later on another cross.
“I’m going to be thinking about that (six)-minute period for a long time,” Rockhurst senior Evan Craig said. “We just let down for just a little bit, and they took it to us.”
Charleston, 19-2-2, which has reached the Final Four in three straight seasons, will play Wingate (N.C.) in the championship at noon Saturday at Swope Soccer Village.
Wingate defeated UC San Diego 2-0 earlier Thursday behind a pair of goals from midfielder Christian Szalay, who doubled his season goal total. Top-ranked Wingate is playing in its first NCAA Division II championship match.
“We still haven’t played 90 minutes well all season,” Charleston coach Chris Grassie said. “We’re getting closer, and we’ve got a lot of talent, but this season has been a roller coaster. So this is all bonus for us.”