ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - Richard Isberner has been a goal-scoring machine for the University of Rio Grande men's soccer team from the outset of the 2011 season.
There's little question, though, that the latest tally to the junior forward's total was the most important marker of the season by far.
Isberner scored on the rebound of a missed shot by teammate Scott Bibby with 5:02 remaining in overtime, lifting the fifth-seeded RedStorm to a 1-0 win over No. 12 seed Belhaven (Miss.) in the second round of the NAIA National Championship Tournament, Tuesday night, at the Orange Beach Sports Complex.
Rio Grande, which improved to 19-2 with the victory, advances to the quarterfinal round of the tournament to face 13th-seeded William Carey (Miss.), which bounced injury-plagued tournament host - and No. 4 seed - Mobile (Ala.), 3-0, in Monday's set of second round games.
"It was tight - very tight," said Rio Grande head coach Scott Morrissey, whose team is in the Elite Eight for the third time in four years. "I'm sure it was a nerve-wracking watching it back home as it was watching it in person here."
Isberner helped calm those nerves halfway through the extra session.
After Bibby's shot was turned away by Belhaven goalkeeper Greg Hartley, the ball deflected off the goalpost to Isberner, who managed to get his rebound try past the Blazers' netminder for the game-winning score. It was the 28th goal of the season for the native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, who was also recently named the Mid-South Conference Player of the Year.
"None of the others were bigger than that one. That's the mark of a good player," Morrissey said. "He played well considering he had two guys all over him most of the night. He had a couple of opportunities and just happened to cash in on the one that mattered most. He was in the right place at the right time."
Rio Grande finished with a 14-10 edge in shots, including a 10-6 advantage in the second half and overtime. Three of those 10 shots after the intermission came in a 13-second span with just over nine minutes to play in regulation, but one try by senior midfielder Joel Thiessen (Newcastle, Australia) was blocked, a second was stopped by Hartley and freshman forward Kenny Doublette's (Greenwich, CT) follow sailed high.
Still, Morrissey said the game progress as he had hoped.
"We didn't execute our gameplan like we wanted to. Our decision-making was pretty poor at times and we allowed the play to be pretty slow," he said. "Once we settled down, we had some opportunities in the second half and I really felt like we were in control. We lost our composure a little bit in the final 10 minutes (both Thiessen and senior defender Neil Harries received yellow cards), but we kept plugging away. I thought we did a fantastic job defensively on their strikers, though. Neil did a great job. We'll take it."
Junior goalkeeper Jack Marchant (Leeds, England) recorded four saves in the win, including a dazzling, leaping block of a direct kick by Belhaven's Johnny Hayes with 29:27 remaining in the first half to keep the game scoreless.
Hartley also four stops in a losing cause for the Blazers (16-5).
Morrissey said he doesn't expect things to get any easier in Wednesday's quarterfinals.
"Carey played well in their win on Monday. Take nothing away from them," he said. "They have a couple of dynamic attackers, they have good organization and they're well-coached. They're very similar to Belhaven, although they may not be as strong at forward. Their midfield and wing play is fantastic, though."
A video feed of Wednesday's game is available on a pay-per-view basis through www.watchNAIA.com. Fans can also follow the game for free via live statistics on www.naia.org.
Wednesday night's winner will face the survivor of the day's opening matchup between top-seeded Hastings (Neb.) and unseeded Science & Arts (Okla.) in Friday's semifinal round. The other half of the quarterfinal bracket features No. 2 seed Lindsey Wilson against 10th-seeded Southern Poly (Ga.) and No. 3 seed Baker (Kan.) versus sixth-seeded Grand View (Iowa).