November 11 and 13, 2010
Hornets Advance to the 2010 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Tournament
For the second year in a row, the Southern Poly Men’s Soccer team will be heading to the NAIA National Tournament. Last year they received an at-large bid, this year they were led there by the efforts of Senior, Goalkeeper, Eric Ati. In the semi-final match of the conference tournament versus #10 Belhaven University, the #22 SPSU Hornets battled to a 0-0 draw and eventually defeated the Blazers by a score of 4-2 in a penalty kick shootout. With the win, the Hornets were guaranteed an automatic bid to the National Tournament, since the SSAC gets two automatic bids, as it has 13 participating schools. In the final match, the Hornets faced the #1 seed in the conference tournament, #7 University of Mobile Rams. Hoping to avenge an earlier loss to the Rams, Southern Poly again fell to them by a score of 2-0.
The semi-final match between SPSU and Belhaven was an exciting affair that saw many good chances by both sides. Having the better of play in the opening half, the Hornets gained more corner kicks (2 to 0) and outshot the Blazers nine to two. On a great counter attack and build up, Hornets midfielder, Christian Castillo and Emeka Maduka combined down the field quickly and had the most dangerous chance of the half, which saw Maduka beat his defender and the goalkeeper but hit the post with his curling shot. The Hornets applied tons of pressure all half.
“I was happy with the way we came out and played in the first half. We played with confidence and tons of pace. We shared the ball well and were in their half most of the time,” said SPSU Head Coach Kom Momeni.
The second half and both overtimes saw a much more even game with the midfield opening up a bit. Both sides created a handful of great chances with the most dangerous coming from a counter attack for Belhaven. Blazer midfielder, Guilherme Branoa, missed a wonderful opportunity from about eight yards out. Moments later, a loose ball was picked up by Aaron McLoughlin and a one versus one save was made by Ati, as he came out of his penalty area and blocked a close range shot off his chest.
In the penalty kick shootout, two time First Team All-Conference GK, Eric Ati saved Belhaven’s first and fourth shots, and got a good piece of the second. All of the Hornets shooters (Sean Grisham, Christian Castillo, Diego Nicholson, and Kouami d'Almeida) scored to give the Hornets their second straight trip to the NAIA National Tournament.
“It was one of the best all around games we played all year. Belhaven has been ranked all year and has only one lose. We played them toe to toe and eventually advanced to the conference final. They have only been shutout once all year long and we matched that today. Eric’s brilliance and our energy were the difference today,” said Momeni.
For the night, the Hornets out shot Belhaven 23 to 12 and had nine corner kicks to Belhaven’s one. Blazer’s GK, Gautier Troch made seven saves, while Ati had five.