The past four games for the ETSU Buccaneers all required extra time for to be decided, but in each game the Bucs had the same mentality ‘Survive and Advance.’ In possibly the program’s biggest game in ETSU’s three-year history, a freshman, Itode Fubara, gave the Bucs the A-Sun Championship with a header in the 95th minute of play.
“Fubara is a very mature player for us even though he is a freshman and to be honest he isn’t the best at heading the ball since he is only 5-foot-7 but he timed the ball great and he was able to lift us to the victory,” Bucs’ Head Coach Scott Calabese said of the A-Sun Tournament MVP.
Despite coming out on top in the game, ETSU had its fair share of big-game nerves compared to the defending A-Sun Champion Hatters, who have appeared in the championship final in four of the past six seasons. The Hatters held the advantage on corners, 4-0, and shots on goal, 3-1 through the match’s first 45 minutes.
“We came out in the first half and were a little shaky and since Stetson had gone through this type of atmosphere before they really took it to us,” Calabrese added of being outshot 6-2 in the opening half. “Once we settled in at halftime, we came out and were able to create opportunities and chances to get us the goal.”
The Bucs will need the same survival mindset to continue their season as they advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history in which another big game will await ETSU.
“The more big games you play in the more you are prepared to compete in them,” Calabrese added. “With the past couple games we played in were all important so we are starting to become more accustomed to the big stage, but the NCAA Tournament is a completely different animal so we will have to come out of the gate with the right mentality.”
Whenever their NCAA Tournament run ends, the Bucs will be set for several years to come with only one senior leaving the program and 14 underclassmen returning for next season.
“We are a really young team with mostly freshman and juniors, but there is a lot of talent on this team and moving forward we are going to see a lot success in this program because of that,” said Fubara.