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Virginia Tech gets buzzer-beating win over Oregon State in NCAA men's soccer tourney
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Virginia Tech gets buzzer-beating win over Oregon State in NCAA men's soccer tourney

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BROWNS SUMMIT, N.C. — A buzzer-beating header in overtime put the Virginia Tech men’s soccer team into the Sweet 16 on Sunday.

Jacob Labovitz scored with about a second left in the first sudden-death overtime period to give the Hokies a 2-1 win over 15th-ranked Oregon State in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Bryan Park in suburban Greensboro.

“That’s probably the most dramatic goal I’ve ever scored,” said Labovitz, who scored both of Tech’s goals Sunday. “I’m super happy we get to move on because I really think we’ve got a shot at winning it all.”

With the game tied at 1, it looked like a second five-minute overtime period was going to be needed. But Chris Little served up the ball with a long kick toward Labovitz, who headed the ball in the goal.

“I made sure right before he kicked it that I was onside so I could get the best out of it I could,” Labovitz said. “It came to my head and I just flicked it towards the goal and hoped for the best. … I knew we had very little time. … I knew I had to get it off my head as quickly as possible.”

“A great ball and a great finish,” Tech coach Mike Brizendine said.

The jubilant Hokies mobbed Labovitz after the goal, while a number of Oregon State players dropped to the ground.

“It was great to just celebrate like that, just have that lifted off our shoulders and to know that we’re going to go on to the next round,” said senior standout Kristo Strickler, who had the assist on Labovitz’s first goal.

Virginia Tech (7-6-3) and Oregon State (9-5) each had a first-round bye.

This is the fifth straight season in which the Hokies have won at least one game in the NCAA tournament.

“It’s an expectation,” Strickler said. “We always look forward to the tournament and we just try to do our best every time.

“We want to strive for more each year. And this year I think we can really take it all the way. … Keep riding this wave.”

The Hokies advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season. They will meet No. 6 overall seed Seton Hall on Thursday in Cary, N.C.

The entire tournament is being held in North Carolina because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tech is looking to win multiple games in the NCAAs for the first time since 2016, when the team won three games before falling in the quarterfinals.

Labovitz, an All-ACC third-team pick, has scored a team-high nine goals this season. The senior forward from Northern Virginia is in his second season at Tech after transferring from Fairleigh Dickinson.

He scored from close range on a header off a Strickler assist in the 54th minute to give Tech a 1-0 lead.

“I knew that I really couldn’t get it on frame if I tried to head it, so I was like, ‘Hey, Labo’s right in the middle, let’s knock it back to him,’” Strickler said. “He had a great finesse header.”

Oregon State’s Tyrone Mondi tied the game when he scored from close range with 3:43 left in regulation, putting the ball over the shoulder of Tech sophomore goalkeeper Matt Zambetti.

“It’s definitely deflating in the moment, but we stick together as a team,” Zambetti said. “Our team chemistry I’d say is one of the best … in the NCAA, so we were able to regroup.”

The Beavers entered the game ranked third in Division I with 33 goals but managed just one. Zambetti had six saves in his NCAA tournament debut.

“I love these types of games,” Zambetti said.

Unlike Oregon State, the Hokies had both a fall and spring season.

“We had a long COVID break,” Labovitz said. “Our strength coach, Ron Dickson, kept us fit throughout the three months we weren’t playing.”

Tech went 3-2-2 last fall. But Tech sophomore Daniel Pereira turned pro and signed a Generation Adidas contract with Major League Soccer in December, making him eligible for the MLS draft as an underclassman. The Northside High School graduate was chosen by Austin FC with the No. 1 overall pick in January.

Starting goalkeeper Mathijs Swaneveld also left Tech after the fall semester.

The Hokies were just 4-6-2 (including the fall and spring) after a March 27 loss to Pittsburgh. But they went 2-0-1 in their final three regular-season games to land an at-large NCAA bid.

“I didn’t know if we would make it [into the NCAA field],” Brizendine said. “I commend the [selection] committee. … They were able to see the quality that we have.

“We showed what we were capable of in the fall, so I think we’re getting back into that rhythm. And we’re doing a pretty good job without Danny Pereira.”

Roman Gabriel had three saves for Oregon State. The Beavers had 14 shots to Tech’s eight.

Oregon State’s Gloire Amanda, who leads Division I with 15 goals, was scoreless Sunday.

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Mark Berman covers Virginia Tech men’s basketball and many other teams at the university. He also helps cover other colleges, including Radford, VMI, Roanoke, Washington and Lee and Ferrum.

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