By Steve Kornacki
DEARBORN, Mich. – Coach Worteh Sampson circled his University of Michigan men's soccer team before the extra time session, and had this message:
"Look, you showed a lot of character, being down a man and going into overtime with momentum swung to the other team," said Sampson, referring to the player lost with a red card at 87:26. "Just be calm and work hard for each other and we can win.
"It's not about X's and O's anymore. It's about heart. You have to be willing to be the team that works harder. And if you do that, we'll come out with a win."
Sampson paused, smiled, and said, "And that's what happened."
The Wolverines had let a two-goal lead slip away, but a penalty kick goal by sophomore Nicolas Pulcini with two minutes remaining in the first 10-minute extra time made them 3-2 winners over St. Francis (Ind.) Saturday (Sept. 18).
His teammates mobbed Pulcini, from Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, to the left of the goal after he ended the hard-fought game played on a hot, steamy afternoon.
A pair of former Macomb Dakota High stars, senior Vito Serra and sophomore Brendan Petz, scored the goals that staked UM-Dearborn to a 2-0 lead midway through the second half.
"We do have a lot of recruits from the east side," said Sampson, referring to suburbs east of Detroit. "
Serra registered the only tally in the first half, and Petz made it a two-goal lead as the Wolverines took control against St. Francis at Fordson High's Charles Jestice Field.
Petz scored on a breakaway and Andrew Schwartz assisted on Serra's header goal.
"It was a nice set piece, a nice free kick taken by the freshman, Andrew Schwartz," said Sampson. "It was a nice header, and Vito doesn't usually score on headers. He's our leader and team captain, too."
Sampson smiled and added on Petz's tally: "He's a poacher, but he finished it well."
However, St. Francis (3-3-2) rallied for two late goals by Javier Florencia against the UM-Dearborn defense and goalie Elijah Burlak. It was tied with 7:01 remaining in regulation time.
Junior Everest Brace replaced Burlak, who was injured in the final minutes of regulation time. Wolverine midfielder Jason Soltis sustained an ankle injury and also came out of the game late in the second half.
"It's unfortunate," said Sampson. "(Burlak) just came out of concussion protocol after 10 days, and I think he got hit in the head after he made that save."
Brace got loose quickly and made a big save to force the extra session.
"Everest is so experienced," said Sampson, "and it's nice to have him. He was impressive."
The Wolverines are 2-5 headed into Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference play. They host Indiana Tech at 3 p.m. next Saturday (Sept. 25) at Jestice Field.
"It's been a tough non-conference season for us," Sampson said. "But it was nice to finish up on a positive note. Indiana Tech is a nationally-ranked team."