November 12, 2011
Gulf Port, MS
Southern Poly jumped out to a quick start on Saturday night, putting their nerves behind in their second consecutive SSAC Tournament Final. They were looking to capture their first SSAC Tournament Championship in program history.
Junior Andre Santos helped Southern Poly out to their early start when 13 minutes into the mach he swung in a corner to Senior Diego Nicholson. Nicholson was streaking towards the near post, flicked in on with his head to a wide open Harewood who neatly pushed it with his instep beyond the AUM Goalie. The goal was Harewood's third of the tournament and his 14th on the year. It was the start Southern Poly was hoping for as they had been starting off slow in many games this season.
It took 55 seconds for Southern Poly to double their lead when again Santos and Nicholson would hook up on the field. This time Nicholson was put through down the flank where he used his pace to speed by two defenders. He would swing in a cross to a diving Santos. Santos would nod the ball near post from 10 yards giving the AUM keeper no chance to react and save. "It was a fantastic goal" said Head Coach Kom Momeni. "Santos was missing much of the year with an injury and to have such an impact in such an important game shows how valuable he is to the program" added Momeni.
The half would end 2-0 with Southern Poly holding a 10-6 shot advantage and a 6-2 advantage on corners.
The second half saw AUM out flying this time as it took them nine minutes to get on the board. A misclearance by two different Southern Poly defenders on a corner would lead to an AUM attacker poking the ball just over the line. It would make the score 2-1 and give AUM tons of energy to find an equalizer.
Just 11 minutes later AUM would find that goal. Sophomore Juan Henao would be called for a questionable penalty when he would clear the ball with a diving header. What seemed to be a great defensive play would somehow be called for a penalty. The call had the entire stadium in shock and AUM would tie the score with a penalty off the inside post.
Southern Poly would gain a man advantage when an AUM defender would pick up two yellow cards in a matter of 28 seconds. A late foul on Nicholson, which would send him tumbling to the ground, would give the ref no choice but to send the AUM defender off. Southern Poly would threaten late in the sending half a few more times with Junior Emeka Maduka missing both an open goal shot from 8 yards away and a header from 6 yards away. Both opportunities would prove to be inconsequential in the end but chances Maduka needs to finish.
The second half would end with Southern Poly with a 9-3 shot advantage and a 4-1 edge in corners.
The overtime periods were a bit mundane as both teams would pick and choose their opportunities to go forward. The eventual 2-2 draw would go to penalty kicks as the 110 minutes of hard play would be decided on a best of five shootout.
The shooters for Southern Poly, in order, were Senior Sean Grisham, Senior Diego Nicholson,Senior Jumol Harewood, Junior Andre Santos and Senior Chris Szalwinski.
The first four shooters for Southern Poly would score and when an AUM shooter missed, Szalwinski would step up with the fifth shot and a chance to seal victory for his team. He calmly struck a ball beyond the AUM keeper and pandemonium would erupt on the Southern Poly sideline.
Southern Poly would win their first SSAC Tournament Championship in the program's short five year history. The 2011 SSAC Tournament MVP Award was given to Jumol Harewood as he would score two goals in the semis, one in the final and make his penalty in the shootout.
Southern Poly will host Menlo College from Atherton, California on Saturday in the 1st Round of the NAIA National Championships. The 16 First Round winners this weekend will travel to Orange Beach, Alabama for the NAIA National Finals.
This is Southern Poly's third consecutive NAIA National Tournament appearance and they have won both 1st Round games they have played.