KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The NCCAA National Championships started with a loss for Grace College’s men’s soccer team on Monday.

The Lancers fell behind early to No. 1 Southwestern Christian University, and a late rally was not enough in a 4-2 defeat at Austin-Tindall Regional Park.

The match opened slowly; the Lancers (12-6-4) attempted to dictate play through possession but struggled to connect on a consistent basis.

The rest of the half saw few chances from the Lancers. The Eagles (18-5-1) threatened Grace’s goal and hit the goalpost twice, but the match remained scoreless entering the final minutes.

SCU seized control of the game just before halftime. The Lancers failed to deal with two separate defensive sequences, and the Eagles capitalized by scoring in the 40th and 41st minutes.

Grace did its best to battle back in the second half, firing 10 shots after the intermission. But SCU added a third goal off another defensive miscue by Grace in the 71st minute. Four minutes later, Grace found itself in a 4-0 hole after the Eagles finished off a cross with a header below the crossbar.

The Lancers continued to compete and managed to cut SCU’s cushion in half. Marcelo Talamas lofted a shot above the Eagles’ goalkeeper for Grace’s first goal at the 75:39 mark, assisted by Breno Oliveira.

Minutes later, Grace thought it had won a penalty kick when Ulisses Miranda was felled in the penalty box, but the official waved off the offense.

Grace maintained pressure on SCU’s backline and picked up a second goal in the 87th minute. Togo Narusawa wove through the middle of four defenders on the left side of the penalty box and crossed into the middle of the box. Oliveira was there for the one-time volley finish to give Grace hope.

The Lancers pinned the Eagles into a defensive position for the majority of the final 15 minutes, but Grace’s late push came up short.

The loss means Grace must win today against Bluefield to have a shot at continuing in the national tournament. The winner of each pool along with the top overall runner-up in the field will advance to the semifinals. Grace’s match against Bluefield was scheduled to start at 1 p.m.

Oliveira led all players with five shots and two on goal, and Nikola Djordjevic shot twice.