Brett Gravatt picked the right time to score his first collegiate goal.
He made it look like he’s been hitting the net all season.
Gravatt’s goal proved to be the game-winner as the Penn State men’s soccer team ousted Hartwick 2-1 Thursday night in the first round at Jeffrey Field.
“Wow,” Gravatt said of the winner. “Glad I could help.”
The win puts the Nittany Lions in the second round at Syracuse at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Mikey Minutillo scored the earlier goal for Penn State (13-5-1), while Andrew Wolverton made one save in the victory.
“Everybody you play is great from here on out, from this round on everybody is great,” coach Bob Warming said. “You’re going to face a little adversity. You’ve got to keep working through it and get through it and keep that emotion going where you’re going to get a win.”
Jhevaughn Beckford scored the goal for Hartwick (6-10-4).
While the Nittany Lions outshot the Hawks 17-7, they really exerted some pressure after the clock dropped under 20 minutes, with a flurry of shots on keeper Tom Buckner.
Gravatt collected the ball near the sideline and put a move on a Hawk defender before unleashing a bending rocket from about 20 yards away into the top left corner of the net for the go-ahead goal with 16:20 left.
“I think one of my strengths is one versus one, so I like to go at people,” Gravatt said. “Play to my right, usually, but my left is coming along over the years (I was) able to beat him inside and get the shot off, and got lucky it went in.”
Hartwick scored first, 46 seconds into the second half, with Kit Tregear and Jack Miller setting up Beckford from about 10 yards away.
“Jhevaughn Beckford’s has been sharp in the moment to get to the loose ball and fight it past the goalkeeper,” Hartwick coach John Scott said. “(I was) delighted to see it hit the back of the net at that stage.”
The Nittany Lions tied it 15 minutes later, with Drew Klingenberg lofting a long service down the field to Minutillo, who collected the ball and tapped it past Buckner, who raced out to challenge the play. A defender tried to get back to clear the ball, but was a fraction too late.
“I was a little — I don’t want to say scared — but doubtful that was going to get in,” Minutillo said. “That center back came in sliding, and he got a piece of it actually, but I got lucky it had enough pace.”
The game featured plenty of pushing, shoving and chippy play.
The teams combined for 22 fouls, four yellow cards and one red card, and plenty of tussles through the night.
“I don’t think they’re as technical as we are, so they tried to make up for it by being supper aggressive, pushing and trying to get us out of our game,” Minutillo said. “Nothing worked too well.”
The worst came midway through the second half, when Hartwick’s Jamie O’Grady pushed a Penn State player off the ball and almost into the front of the bleachers. A fracas ensued, and O’Grady was given his second yellow card of the match and was tossed from the game, leaving the Hawks playing 10 on 11 the rest of the match.
“It’s kind of hard (not to get physical) when one of your guys gets thrown around,” Minutillo said. “You don’t want to just sit there. It’s not smart, too, because that’s what they want you to do.”
The ejection came with nearly 26 minutes left, with the game-winner scored nine minutes later.
“Even when we were down to 10 (players), we still were getting forward,” Scott said. “We still were able to get men into good positions, getting some crosses in. It’s always going to be difficult trying to create a clear-cut chance.”