November 5, 2011
In a long rivaled match up between nationally ranked #12 Southern Poly Hornets, the #2 seed in the SSAC Tournament, and the #7 seed Lee University, it took overtime and a golden goal by Senior Diego Nicholson to help the Hornets on to the SSAC Final Four.
Southern Poly would threaten early and often as both Junior Emeka Maduka and Senior Jumol Harewood would, minutes apart, squander point blank opportunities in front of goal. Harewood would have his shot blocked by the keeper and Maduka's diving header would go just wide. Most of the play was in Lee defensive end and it would take until the 35th minute for Southern Poly to open the scoring when Junior Andre Santos swung in a corner that was cleared to the top of the box by a Lee defender. The clearance was picked up by Nicholson and he would have his shot blocked. The rebound fell to Maduka who chopped a defender and struck a ball from 18 yards that beat the Lee keeper. It was Maduka's 11th goal on the year, tying him for the lead with Harewood. Although Southern Poly would threaten a few more times, the half would end with a 1-0 score. "Once again we created great scoring opportunities early and were unable to capitalize. In the first 20 minutes we were very dangerous and we should've had more than one goal. Unfortunately it's been one of those years where we can't finish as early and often as we would like. We've been able to get it done but we make life a lot harder then it needs to be" said Head Coach Kom Momeni.
Senior Sean Grisham beating the Lee keeper in the 2nd half with Senior Diego Nichoson supporting.
The Flames would also see a great opportunity missed on a counter attack. "They just out ran us down the field. They had a shot from about 12 yards that went too high. We were lucky there!" said Coach Momeni
The second half saw Southern Poly come out strong and looking for a second goal. Senior Sean Grisham would receive a through pass from Senior Marcos Mendez. Grisham would use his pace to get behind the back line and square a ball to Maduka. From eight yards out Maduka would miss high. Seven minutes later Maduka would put Grisham in behind again. Grisham would beat the keeper and his touch take him wide of the goal. He would square the ball to Maduka again from eight yards out and this time his shot was on frame, but cleared off the line by a Lee defender.
With 30 minutes gone in the second half, Lee would take a long throw in from about 20 yards away. The depth of the throw would be misjudged by the Southern Poly Junior keeper Dennis Kramer and cleared off the line by a Hornet defender. The ball would bounce around three to four different heads before a Lee player would pick up the loose ball from 20 yards and hit a low hard shot to the far corner beating Kramer. Both teams would threaten in the last 15 minutes but after 90 minutes the game was headed for overtime.
It took only 3 minutes for Southern Poly to get the golden goal and from the most unlikely of players. Senior Chris Szalwinski would drive in a free kick from midfield. Nicholson would head it across the top of the box to Sophomore Juan Henao. While fighting to create room for a shot the ball would roll back to a charging Nicholson. He would place a left footed bending ball to the far upper corner sending both the fans and the Hornet players into a frenzy. The goal, Nicholson's first of the year, would see Southern Poly through to the semi-finals of the SSAC Conference Tournament. Momeni added, "it was a great finish and appropriate that one of our top seniors gets the game winner, to make sure the seniors' final season continues. I'm really happy for Diego and the rest of the squad."
Southern Poly will face off with nationally ranked #17 Belhaven University Thursday night at 8:30pm EST. The Blazers beat Southern Poly on September 13th 1-0, giving the Hornets their first of two losses on the season. The Final Four of the SSAC Tournament will take place in Gulf Port, Mississippi with the finals on Saturday night.