Panthers come up just short of winning the Sun Belt

Nick Hague (5) watches as teammate Amiri Abraham (7) fights for the ball in Sunday’s Sunbelt Championship Soccer game against Coastal Carolina University, Nov. 13. Photo by Gordon Clark | The Signal
The Georgia State men's soccer team lost in the 70th minute of action against Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Conference Championship. Photo by Gordon Clark | The Signal
The Georgia State men’s soccer team lost in the 70th minute of action against Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Conference Championship.
Photo by Gordon Clark | The Signal

It just wasn’t meant to be, at least not this year.

The Men’s Soccer team fell 1-0 to the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in the Sun Belt Conference Championship. It was a tightly contested match the whole way through, with a goal not coming until nearly the 70th minute. Coastal Carolina’s Jair Espinoza was able to slip past the defense and buried the game winner in the bottom corner. The Panthers were stunned but didn’t lose hope. They became more aggressive trying to score that elusive equalizer, but sadly none of their chances was able to find the back of the net. For the second year in a row, the Panthers fell short in the championship match, but that didn’t make the loss any easier.

“It hurts,” Georgia State forward Rashid Alarape said. “Being so close, it really does.”

Alarape, who scored the winner vs. Georgia Southern in the semifinals, was not able to play in the championship match. After the game vs. Southern, Alarape was experiencing knee issues, and the pain was so bad it hurt to walk, let alone run. Despite all the treatment, the injury was too severe for Alarape to play through, and it killed him not being able to be out there, especially in a match where they needed his goal scoring prowess.

“The worst part of it all is me knowing I could’ve helped my team,” Alarape said. “Seeing what my team needed and me not being able to help provide it, it just sucks.”

Despite losing in the championship, the Panthers have a lot to be proud of this season. The Panthers finish their season 14-8 and with numerous awards and accolades going to multiple players on the team. The Panthers should have nothing to be ashamed of, and Coach Brett Surrency echoed those sentiments.

“Obviously we’re disappointed, but I couldn’t be happier with our player’s, regarding their efforts,” Coach Surrency said. “I’m so proud of our guys, not only today but for the whole year.”

To the winner goes the spoilers, and nobody exemplified that more than Coastal Carolina sophomore midfielder Jair Espinoza. Along with scoring the championship winner which in turn brought the Sun Belt Championship, Espinoza was also named to the Sun Belt All-Tournament Team and won Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

“Honestly all of this is a great feeling, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Espinoza said. “They allowed me to enter a 0-0 game, it’s all for them, all because of them.”

Georgia State might not have won the championship, but they didn’t leave empty handed. Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Hannes Burmeister, along with Kwaku Adu and Liam Fitzsimmons were all named to the All-Tournament Team, a great honor just one that didn’t feel as good because of the sting from the championship loss.

“It’s sad really. We worked so hard this season,” Adu said. “The All-Tournament trophy doesn’t make up for the one we really wanted.”

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