SEATTLE, WA – (SPUFalcons.com) Great goalkeeping and opportunistic offense is a recipe for soccer success. That mixture has a Sweet 16 matchup on the menu for Seattle Pacific.
Cody Lang registered a season-high seven saves Saturday and Danny Olivas converted a penalty kick in the 68th minute for fourth-ranked Seattle Pacific, which defeated league rival Northwest Nazarene 2-1 in the NCAA Division II Tournament regional semifinal at Interbay Stadium.
The top-seeded Falcons (16-1-2) advance to the West Regional championship game to meet No. 3 seed Cal State L.A. They will host that game in Seattle on Thursday at 7 p.m., and also a national quarterfinals contest on Saturday.
“Being able to play at home next week is huge,” exclaimed SPU coach Mark Collings. “There’s something about home cooking and your own field and staying in the same routine. Hopefully we can take advantage of that Thursday, we’ll see what happens.”
The Crusaders, who reached the regional semifinal by virtue of a 1-0 first-round victory over Simon Fraser on Thursday, saw their season end with a 15-4-1 record. They set a school record for wins in a season and made the program’s first ever postseason appearance.
SPU won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship. NNU was the runner-up and dealt the Falcons their only loss, on Oct. 30 in Nampa, Idaho.
Olivas broke a 1-1 tie by placing his penalty kick into the lower right side of the NNU goal at 67:02. He earned the free shot by being taken down in the left side of the 18-yard box and capitalized for his third score.
SPU’s sophomore goalkeeper preserved the win with his sixth and seventh saves of the game. Lang denied an attempt by Einar Jenssen in the 71st minute and then tipped a point-blank shot by Julio Castillo over the crossbar with 10:48 left to play.
The Falcons opened the scoring at 9:48 and Stephen MacDonald earned the assist with a tremendous display of determination in the box. The sophomore forward raced down the left flank and beat two swarming defenders with some clever moves before turning the corner at the end line. MacDonald dribbled toward the left post and drew the goalkeeper out before finding Kollars wide open in the center for an easy 11-yard finish.
“A pretty composed finish by Kollars,” said Collings. “He made it look a little easier than it really was. He had guys sliding across and he buried it.”
That was the third goal of the season for the sophomore midfielder and was just the second score NNU had allowed in the last six games.
Collings commended MacDonald’s effort on the opening goal.
“That’s a prototypical Stephen MacDonald play right there. He makes something out of nothing with his work rate.
“In some ways it’s a little fitting for our first playoff goal to be scored that way because that’s how the first goal of the year was scored with him working hard and stripping the ball off a goalkeeper. It’s good to see Stephen still has that same tenacity and work rate at the end of the year as he did at the beginning.”
The goal by Kollars came of the first attempt of the game and the Falcons didn’t have another until 2:41 remained in the half, by which time NNU accumulated 11 shots.
SPU nearly added another goal on its second shot, but was denied by a hand save from Alfredo Ontiveros on a close-range poke by Jordan Thompson. The hosts were unable to collect the rebound, allowing the Crusaders to immediately counter attack.
Castillo sent a long through pass from the NNU half to Fredy Razo, who picked it up 35 yards out. Razo dribbled toward the goal and maneuvered past the goalkeeper to set up a 16-yard shot into the open goal at 42:31. He has 13 goals this season.
The Crusaders compiled a 12-3 shot advantage during the first half with many close chances that required five saves by Lang.
“NNU very well could have won the game tonight and we feel fortunate,” said Collings. “That is probably the most we’ve been dominated in a half in a really long time and luckily Cody was there. After we scored, it looked like we got tight and stopped playing. The next 30 minutes, if it wasn’t for Cody Lang we’re probably down 3-1.”
Jaime Verdin cracked a 20-yard shot that appeared to be bending toward the upper left corner before banging off the post. The rebound caromed to Razo, who was open in the SPU goalmouth but put his 10-yard shot over the crossbar.
Razo twice broke free and forced the SPU goalkeeper to make spectacular saves. In the 15th minute he dribbled toward the left post before Lang blocked a point-blank shot. A similar situation at the right post, in the 22nd minute, saw Lang deflect a low shot.
NNU’s Erik Anderson had back-to-back chances in the 37th minute. His first try was a curving 17-yard blast that Lang dove to his left to parry. The follow shot was collected by the Falcons goalie.
For the game, the visitors had the better of a 21-11 shot margin. They had just a 9-8 edge after halftime.
“Defensively we were a lot better in the second half,” Collings said. “We neutralized some of the things that they wanted and that is what really changed the game for us. The important part of the game was in the first half and us being able to weather the storm that they put on us. A lot of that has to do with Cody.”
MacDonald nearly tallied the go-ahead goal 10 minutes before Thompson got the job done. He first-timed a low 16-yard drive that travelled just wide of the right post.
Ontiveros made four saves for the Crusaders before being injured with 30:48 left to play and giving way to reserve goalkeeper Ryan Foo.
Making their fourth consecutive playoff appearance, and 34th overall, the SPU men had a first-round bye. They are in pursuit of their sixth men’s soccer national championship, and the first since 1993.
The Falcons face Cal State L.A., which downed No. 2 seed Azusa Pacific 1-0 in the other West Regional semifinal. The Golden Eagles are a familiar foe, having ended three recent SPU playoff runs. They beat the Falcons 2-1 in 2006, got a 3-2 second-round decision in Seattle and advanced in 2012 on a penalty-kick tiebreaker after a 1-1 draw.
The SPU-CSULA matchup will be the 7 p.m. nightcap of a doubleheader on Thursday at Interbay Stadium following the South Central Region final at 4:30. St. Edwards will meet the winner of Sunday’s Colorado Mesa-Midwestern State contest.
Thursday’s regional winners will meet on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the right to compete in the national semifinals on Dec. 4. The College Cup, which is NCAA soccer’s version of the Final Four, will be held in Louisville, Ky.
NCAA MEN’S SOCCER
Division II Tournament – Regional Semifinal
Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014
Interbay Stadium / Seattle, Wash.
(#1) Seattle Pacific 2, (#4) Northwest Nazarene 1
Shots – NNU 21, SPU 11.
Saves –NNU 4 (Alfredo Ontiveros 4, Ryan Foo 0), SPU 7 (Cody Lang).
Corner Kicks – NNU 9, SPU 3.
Fouls – NNU 18, SPU 16.
Offsides – NNU 0, SPU 2.
Seattle Pacific 16-1-2
Northwest Nazarene 15-4-1
Next Men’s Soccer Game
NCAA West Regional Championship Game
Cal State L.A. at Seattle Pacific
Thursday, Nov. 20, 7:00 p.m.
Interbay Stadium / Seattle, Wash.
goalWA.net Local Soccer News is sponsored by Pro Roofing Northwest, Kirkland, Bellevue, Seattle, Redmond, Woodinville, Federal Way, Everett, Snohomish, Issaquah, Renton, Kent, Bothell, Edmonds Washington roofing company.