On paper, Saturday's men's soccer game between Harper College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College seemed to be a mismatch.
The Rams (7-2-1) entered the contest ranked ninth in the NJCAA Division III poll.
The mismatch, though, never materialized as the Hawks were able to stay within reach before falling 2-0.
"I thought Harper gave us problems," said Anoka-Ramsey coach Brady Eichorn-Hicks. "They pinned us in our own half pretty regularly."
Harper had the better run of play early in the first half in Palatine, putting the faster Anoka-Ramsey back on its heels. Problem was, Harper wasn't able to get a quality shot on frame.
"This kind of exemplifies our season," said Hawks coach Jason Diebold.
One person who was able to capitalize on his opportunity was Rams sophomore forward Atanas Karagyaurov, who got a shot past Harper's Sean Cox (5 saves), albeit under odd circumstances.
With Cox in possession after controlling a loose ball in his box, he was called for stalling (holding the ball longer than six seconds) by the linesman on the near side of the field.
The Rams were awarded a direct kick to Cox's right, inches outside the 18-yard box. Karagyaurov calmly beat a group of defenders and placed the ball over Cox's right shoulder.
The final 20 minutes went in favor of Anoka-Ramsey. The Rams were able to execute their passing game and started wearing down Harper's defenders.
When Harper was able to regain possession, they fared well with an effective counter-attack.
With the game tied going into the intermission, the question was whether the Hawks could muster enough offensive opportunities to come away with a tie, or perhaps an upset.
"We're just not finishing," Diebold said of his team's inability to capitalize on offensive opportunities.
For a second time, Karagyaurov would find the ball at his feet, this time in the run of play. Beating defenders who thought he was off-sides, Karagyaurov made them pay by tallying his second goal late in the game. He has a team-best 18 this season. and putting him atop Anoka-Ramsey's all-time scoring list.
• Rochelle Anderson's goal was the difference for the Anoka-Ramsey women's team in a 1-0 triumph over Harper.