December 6, 2011
It was the completion of the fifth season of the men’s soccer program at Southern Poly and once again the program would set a standard for teams to follow that would be hard to replicate. The season would end with an overall record of 17-3-2, an SSAC Tournament championship and Elite 8 appearance in the NAIA National Tournament. All program bests that will be hard pressed to be beat. In the two previous years, the Hornets reached the Round of Sixteen.
Southern Poly ended the regular season 13-2-1 and 9-2-1 in the SSAC, a powerhouse conference which boasted having four teams making the Sweet 16 of the National Tournament. The 13 wins during the regular season is a program best, improving from the 12 reached in 2008 and 2009.
The post season started with facing long time tournament rival Lee University. Lee had knocked Southern Poly out of the SSAC Tournament in 2008 and 2009. An overtime golden goal from Senior Diego Nicholson would send Southern Poly to their second consecutive final four in the SSAC Tournament Championship. The SSAC Tournament Championship would take place in Gulf Port, MS and there they would again face Belhaven University for the second consecutive year, in the semis. Last year, the Hornets knocked Belhaven out on penalty kicks after 110 minutes of scoreless soccer. This year it would be different. A focused and driven Southern Poly team would net three unanswered goals and win the semifinals 3-0 over #9 nationally ranked Belhaven University, advancing them to their second consecutive Tournament Championship game. Goals would be scored by Senior Jumol Harewood (2) and Junior Emeka Maduka.
The finals would have them facing off with Auburn University – Montgomery. AUM was nationally ranked #19 and was the #5 seed in the tournament. Southern Poly would get off to a flying start with early goals from Senior Jumol Harewood and Junior Andre Santos. AUM would fight back and tie the score 2-2. After 20 minutes of goalless overtime soccer, it was up to individuals as penalties would ensue. Southern Poly, unaffected by the pressure, would net all five penalties with the fifth being the winner after AUM would miss one. The Tournament Championship was the first in the program’s history and guaranteed them a visit to the NAIA National Championships.
Southern Poly would earn a #6 final National Ranking after the tournament. The ranking was the second highest in program history as they ended the season ranked #4 in 2009.
In the Opening Round of the NAIA National Championships, Southern Poly would host Menlo College from Atherton, California. The Hornets would put on a dominating performance outshooting the Oaks from Menlo 30-2 on the day. The performance, as good as it may have been, still needed overtime as Southern Poly couldn’t find the back of the net. A golden goal by Senior Jumol Harewood off an assist from fellow Senior Chris Szalwinski would put Southern Poly in to their third consecutive Sweet 16 of the NAIA National Championships.
The National Championships would once again be held in Orange Beach, AL and once again Southern Poly was headed to the Sweet 16. This time full of confidence, a bit bitter from last year’s loss in the Sweet 16 and ready to play. They would attend Gulf Shores Middle School the day before the game and speak to the students about the five core values of NAIA Athletics. After the presentation by the athletes, they would invite the students to join them as they put them into passing, juggling and shooting stations giving lessons to each student and connecting with them on a personal level.
After the presentation it was all business and Southern Poly’s focus was on that of their opponent in the Sweet 16, #5 in the Nation and a very dangerous Bethel University. In the match Bethel would get off to a quick start with the opening goal coming in the 12th minute. Southern Poly wouldn’t fold and in fact raised their game and net two of their own in the first half. Junior Emeka Maduka would open the scoring off an assist from Junior Lesego Molemogi and Senior Marcos Mendez would get his second goal of the year off an assist from Senior Chris Szalwinski. Mendzez’s goal would be the eventual game winner, his first of the season. A stout Southern Poly defense would stay strong for the second half, limiting chances by Bethel and the game would end with a score of 2-1 in the favor of the Hornets. The win would be their first in the Sweet 16 and their first trip to the Elite 8 in program history.
In the Elite 8, the Hornets would face off against 8 time National Champion Lindsey Wilson College. Lindsey came into the match ranked #1 in the country and a 21-0 record. Southern Poly knocked Lindsey out of the 2010 National Tournament in the Opening Round and Lindsey was looking for revenge. Lindsey would take the lead in the first half in the 36th minute. The half would end 1-0 and Southern Poly would need to figure out something at half to get back in the game.
The second half would start how the first ended as it took 1:18 into the start of play for Lindsey to double their lead. Down 2-0 to the #1 team in the country, Southern Poly would show the heart and character they showed all year and fight back. Maduka would get his second goal of the tournament in the 63rd minute off a corner from Santos and a flick from Senior Sean Grisham. Down 2-1 Southern Poly would keep fighting and substitute, Sophomore James Harris would receive a pass from Grisham and slot a ball far post to tie the game at 2 in the 78th minute.
Southern Poly would give itself one more great chance to win when Maduka walked in from 15 yards away and got a clean shot off with just over a minute left. The ball would roll just inches wide and what could have been, one will never know.
The overtime period saw Lindsey come out flying and in the 98th minute a rebound goal off a shot from distance would send the Hornets home. Lindsey Wilson would win the next two games and win the 2011 NAIA National Championship. Maduka, for his two goals in two games, would be named to the 2011 NAIA Men's Soccer All-Tournament Team. Maduka is the first player from Southern Poly to ever be named to this exclusive group of players.
The 2011 season was a great one and once again the program took steps in the positive direction, steps other programs will only dream about. They would set a new standard in many different areas: 13 wins during the regular season, 17 wins on the season as a whole, an SSAC Tournament Championship, and a trip to the Elite 8 were all firsts and all achieved this year. Southern Poly will graduate six seniors who all have had a profound impact upon the program in many different ways.
The graduating seniors are:
Rani Alkoptan – 4 seasons - 49 GP, 10 Goals, 16 Assists, 36 Points
Sean Grisham – 4 seasons - 75 GP, 26 Goals, 17 Assists, 69 Points
Jumol Harewood – 1 season - 22 GP, 15 Goals, 3 Assists, 33 Points
Marcos Mendez – 3 seasons - 54 GP, 5 Goals, 1 Assist, 11 Points
Diego Nicholson – 4 seasons - 71 GP, 8 Goals, 13 Assists, 29 Points
Chris Szalwinski – 4 seasons - 60 GP, 1 Goal, 13 Assists, 15 Points
Southern Poly Men’s Soccer
2011 Year in Review
2011 SSAC Tournament Champions
2011 NAIA National Tournament Elite Eight