SOUTH CHINA — The Erskine boys soccer team lifted the weight of three straight losses off its shoulders Tuesday with one dramatic play.

As time wound down in the second overtime period against Cony, Michael Sprague picked a pass down the left sideline out of mid-air and crossed it to Alex Cleaves at the far post. Cleaves then one-timed the ball into the net to give the Eagles a 2-1 victory with 2:45 left.

Erskine improved to 7-3-1 in Class B North while Cony fell to 4-4-2 after absorbing its third straight defeat.

The goal was the second of the game for Cleaves, who tied the score at 1-1 with a goal in the second half. Cony’s Vlastimil Horak scored on a penalty kick 1:50 into the first half.

“It was a tough last three games,” Cleaves said. “We’ve all been heartbroken. We played with heart tonight to win this game. We knew this was extremely important on the season.”

All three goals were scored at the north end of the field with the wind at the players’ backs. Wind played a big factor in the first goal as Cony keeper Nick Robinson boomed a goal kick that Zach Whitney collected near the top of the Erskine penalty circle. The Rams were awarded the penalty kick when Whitney was taken down from behind. Erskine converted when Horak beat David McGraw with a right-to-left kick.

The Eagles had two penalty kicks of their own.

Robinson saved the first with a diving stop against Cleaves. The Eagles then rang one off the post in the second half.

“To have two free opportunities with PKs and not to capitalize, that is not acceptable,” Erskine coach Carrie Larrabee said. “We need to find the back of the net at this point in the season.”

Both teams had good scoring chances in the first half. Robinson (seven saves) made three outstanding stops to keep the Rams close. Robinson went into the field in the second half in favor of Hussein Alabraihi (four saves) but returned to the goal for the two overtimes.

The Eagles controlled play in the second half, out-shooting the Rams 5-1. They got the equalizer on a long free kick by Sage Hapgood-Belanger that carried into the goalmouth.

“All game on the free kicks from deep they’d been giving me the back side,” Cleaves said “As soon as that ball got over I just had to get the touch.”

The Eagles played particular attention to Horak, an exchange student from the Czech Republic who bounced between midfield and forward.

“We just had to make sure that somebody was marking him.” Larrabee said. “We just needed to be aware of where he was on the field.”

The overtime was the third for the Rams, who had won the previous two.

“We played well but not well enough to win,” Cony coach Jon Millett said. “We’re playing consistently well. All of our games were close. We’re in every game.”

McGraw finished with five saves, coming up big late in the second half and the first overtime with tough stops each time against Brad Houston.

“We’ve been in those situations before where we came into the second half down a goal and we needed to get it done,” Larrabee said. “This was a big win for us, a momentum changer going into the end of the season.”

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