Hornets 0 - Belhaven 0 (Hornets 4-2 Pk's)
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.
The second match of the weekend saw the Hornets suffer their worst lose (0-2) since October of 2008. The Rams from Mobile scored on two set pieces, one in each half, while being out shot 11-7 and only gaining one corner kick in the entire match. The Hornets have not lost by two goals since Oct.8th 2008.
"I thought we played very well against a very good Mobile side," said Momeni. "It's a shame that the score line ended up that way, because our Backs were awesome against a very fast Mobile team." The Hornets held Conference Freshman, Offensive, and Player of the Year, Deshorn Brown to one shot on goal. "Marcos Mendez (Center back) was our MVP this weekend for his work against two First Team All-Conference Forwards (Brown- U of Mobile and Achille Campion-Belhaven University).
In the 40th minute, after a very even half that saw both teams with five shots, a high served ball was flicked over the head of Ati and went into the corner of the Hornet net, giving the Rams a 1-0 lead. Moments later, SPSU Midfielder, Daniel Oyugah served a brilliant ball to a wide open Castillo on the back post of the Ram's goal. Castillo's header was cleared off the line by a back and the half ended with a 1-0 Rams lead.
The second half saw the Hornets having much of the play, however, another Mobile free kick found the back of the Hornet's net. This time, a hard bending in-swinger skimmed off of an SPSU back's shoulder and went right by Ati for a 2-0 lead. The Hornets never quit and fought back and dominated the entire half, hitting the post two times and having another ball cleared off the Ram's goal line.
"I am proud of the boys for fighting to the end. At some point, when you hit the post twice and have two balls cleared off the line, while giving up two set piece goals on defensive mistakes, you just know that you are not meant to win. In the general run of play, I thought we played very well," said Momeni. "Mobile is a well coached team with tons of pace. Congrats to them."
On the night, the Hornets, once again, out shot (11-7) and out gained corner kicks (3-1) against a Top 10 team but didn't come away with a win. "We went 200 minutes in the final two games and did not score a goal. You cannot expect to win a Conference Tournament doing that. We are very hard to defend when we spring forward through midfield. We just need to finish," said a disappointed Momeni. "On the flip side, we went 200 minutes against two very good teams and did not get scored on in the general run of play. Going into the National Tournament, we need to continue the stellar defense play and take advantage of the numerous chances that we create."