The Wildcats opened the A.I.I. semifinals on Friday night with a match against Central Christian College under the lights at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
The 'Cats looked to get on the board early but an attempt by Ty Stephens (League City, Texas) went wide of goal in the third minute. The Tigers sent a shot high in the 14th minute as the two teams looked to settle into an offensive rhythm. Central Christian went up 1-0 on Johnson & Wales in the 17th minute as David Martinez-Salinas knocked in a freekick attempt by Gabriel Flores.
Christian Gallegos (Alvin, Texas) forced Brian Silva to make a stop in the 29th minute and Tanner Hoffman (Sioux Falls, S.D.) followed it up with another attempt in the 31st minute that Silva also saved. Jordan Collier (Plainfield, Ill.) was called into action in the 31st minute but stepped up to make the save.
Mark Ramirez-Tapia (Longmont, Colo.) picked up his first goal of the season in the 38th minute, taking a pass from Mitchel Erickson (Pueblo West, Colo.) and kicking it in from about eight yards out. Ramirez-Tapia almost had a second goal two minute later, but Silva made the stop to send the game tied 1-1 into the break.
The Wildcats came out firing in the second half with Austin Collier (Plainfield, Ill.) and Dean Rounsevell (Port Macquarie, Australia) each putting a shot on frame in the 46th and 47th minute but Silva made both saves. In the 59th minute, Josh Costello (Gold Coast, Australia) put a header on frame but Silva came up with the stop.
Ben Flannery Bartlett (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) had a pair of shots saved in the 79th and 80th minutes as JWU looked for the go-ahead goal. After 90 minutes of action, the game was still knotted 1-1 forcing overtime.
Jordan Collier made a save on an attempt by the Tigers in the 99th minute to keep the match 1-1 and force a second overtime period. Zach Peterschmidt (Colorado Springs, Colo.) tried to net the game winner in the 101st minute but Silva made the save. The game finished the overtime period tied 1-1, officially a draw. The two sides had to head into penalty kicks to determine who would advance to the Championship match on Saturday.
The Tigers stepped up to the spot first but Oscar Gudino's attempt went high. Flannery Bartlett was the first Wildcat at the spot but saw his attempt go high. Gabriel Flores saw the Tiger's second attempt deflect off the post. Erickson converted his attempt to give JWU the 1-0 lead. Ricky Tellez tied the score 1-1 after finding the back of the net of the Tiger's third attempt. Kyler Fowkes (Arvada, Colo.) put the 'Cats back up 2-1 on his shot.
Lorenzo Davalos tied it 2-2 on his attempt and Costello gave JWU the 3-2 lead. Adam Langdon tied it 3-3 on the fifth attempt by Central Christian. Hoffman stepped up to the spot with the chance to win it for the Wildcats. He found the back of the net giving the 'Cats the 4-3 win and advancing them to the Championship match.
Flannery Bartlett and Ramirez-Tapia each had two shots on goal for Johnson & Wales and Jordan Collier made two saves for JWU.
The 'Cats will take on #24 Georgia Gwinnett College on Saturday at 4:30pm in the A.I.I. Championship match. The winner will earn the A.I.I.'s automatic berth to the NAIA National Championship tournament.