The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 52
Published 5/22/13 | Log In
Cal State LA sends SPU home two years in a row
By JON HEDDLES, Staff Reporter
Published: November 14, 2012
The scoreboard reads 1-1. Both regulation and the two five-minute overtime periods have expired. The two teams exchange penalty kick scores back and forth; one seeks redemption while the other looks to relive the past.
The other team converts on their fifth PK attempt, and the pressure is on again for the player in the white jersey to come through. The ball leaves his foot, bounces off the crossbar and it’s over. The SPU men’s soccer team has lost to Cal State LA in the NCAA Division II Tournament for the second straight year.
“With how hard this group worked all year, we didn’t deserve to go out like that,” junior Kodiac Gamble said. “Getting knocked out of the tournament for the second year in a row by LA doesn’t sit well with any of us.”
After finishing the regular season with an 11-3-5 overall record, second in the GNAC standings and a No. 21 national ranking, the Falcons earned a rematch with CSULA via a No. 3 seed in the West Region of the tournament bracket. The Golden Eagles knocked out the Falcons on their home field in the West Regional final last season.
SPU looked to even the score in Phoenix, Ariz. on Thursday, and they seemed to be the superior team throughout the matchup. In overtime, they nearly secured the win with senior Christopher Morris and junior Blaine Carver, business manager of The Falcon, both missing out on two near-goals.
“We had some chances to score,” head coach Mark Collings said. “I thought we had a lot more possessions and quality chances than they did. Unfortunately, in soccer, you can outplay the other team pretty much all throughout the game and still come out on the short end of it.”
Following converted penalty kick shots by senior Richie Evoy, freshmen Matt Merchant and Danny Olivas, and senior Brandon Kuenzi, junior Anthony Mohammed stepped up to the challenge. He came up just short, and the Falcon’s season was brought to an abrupt close. Emotions ran high as a combination of disappointment, pride and unity led to a powerful scene on the field after the final result.
“After the game, we all huddled up, and players as well as coaches were thanking each other for the wonderful years they have been so fortunate to spend at SPU playing soccer,” senior Caleb Nyone said. “This team was very close and had a great group of guys who genuinely cared about one another.”
The game also marked the last time the 10 seniors will ever play a game in a Falcon uniform. This realization contributed to the heavy emotional atmosphere at the end of the game.
“The senior class, they’ve done a lot,” Collings said. “They’re going to definitely be missed, and I think they’ve really helped establish what we want the soccer program here at SPU to be all about.”
Despite losing, the SPU players and coaches have a lot to hold their heads high about. Injuries plagued them throughout the season, but they still battled through a tough schedule to achieve much success. They rode a six-game wining streak at the start of the season to make it to all the way to No. 2 in the national poll and played well enough all season to make their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
“Looking back on the season, I’m sure we could all agree that this was the year we went from being teammates to a family,” Gamble said. “Apart from all the goals we set on the field, off the field is where you will truly find this team’s character. The brotherhood we share among each other and our coaching staff is something really special. I’m proud of this team for its ability to stick together through tough times.”