November 29, 2011
Orange beach, Alabama
Southern Poly Advance to 1st Elite 8 in Program History It was the third consecutive Sweet 16 for Southern Poly in their short five year history and it would be the first time they would ever advance beyond that stage. Their opponent was Bethel University from McKenzie, Tennessee. Bethel entered the match 14-2-2 on the year and Nationally Ranked #5 in the country while Southern Poly entered 16-2-2 and Nationally Ranked #6. On paper it was a great match up, and the play on the field would attest to that.
It would take only 12 minutes for Bethel to get on the scoreboard when Mario Villa Boa received a pass from a fellow Bethel teammate and slotted it far post for the opening goal. It was the first shot of the game and it was the fastest goal scored on Southern Poly all year. A fear of a third consecutive Sweet 16 lost was lingering, but not for the Hornet team on the field. The goal lifted their game and Southern Poly would be in control from that point forward.
Southern Poly would work up many scoring chances after conceding but in the 32nd minute Junior Emeka Maduka would capitalize. Senior Jumol Harewood picked up a pass from Junior Lesego Molemogi and blasted a shot right at the Bethel keeper. The shot hit off the keeper's hands and bounced almost 20 yards from goal. The rebound was hit first time by Molemogi and Maduka was there to deflect it home. The goal was Maduka's first of the National Tournament and his 14th on the year. Full of confidence and constantly on the attack, Senior Marcos Mendez would get the go ahead goal only six minutes later. Senior Chris Szalwinski would serve a free kick from 45 yards to the back post. A charging Mendez would head it to the far corner giving the Bethel keeper no chance to save it. The goal was the second of the season for Mendez, with his first coming during the first game of the year.
With less than two minutes left in the half, Molemogi would find Senior Sean Grisham beyond the back line. Grisham would get behind everyone and be pulled down by the jersey preventing him from going on his breakaway. The foul would result in a red card for the Bethel defender and force Bethel to play with 10 men the rest of the way. The half would end with Southern Poly holding a 2-1 lead and a 15-6 shot advantage.
The second half was a stalemate as both teams would create some chances but neither be able to score. Southern Poly's Junior goalie Dennis Kramer would be called upon to make three routine saves in the half and he did so as he has all year.
The win is the first time Southern Poly has advanced to the Elite 8 in the NAIA National Tournament and the first time they have beaten Bethel in three tries. "This was a great win. I'm excited for the guys as they played so well. To come back and beat such a respected team like Bethel in the Sweet 16 and advance to your first Elite 8 is just special," said Head Coach Kom Momeni.
Southern Poly will face 8 time National Championship winners Lindsey Wilson College in the Elite 8 on Wednesday Nov. 30th at 2:30 pm. "Lindsey is a great team and at 20-0 and a #1 National Ranking it will be a great test for us. We just need to take the next 20 hours to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally" added Momeni.