Freshman Adis Islamovic celebrating with Junior Juan Henao after his free kick goal opened the scoring.
MARIETTA, Ga. – On Saturday afternoon in the 2012 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round, the
Southern Polytechnic State University men’s soccer team beat the visiting Spring Arbor
(Mich.) University Cougars 3-1 at Nuesoft Technologies Field. Southern Polytechnic
is the No. 8 seed in the tournament and is rated 11th nationally in the NAIA while
Spring Arbor received 39 points in the latest coaches’ poll to rank 29th.
Southern Poly, the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament runner-up, received an at-large bid to the NAIA national event while the Cougars earned an automatic berth by winning the Crossroads League Tournament championship. The Hornets are making their fourth straight appearance in the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship with SAU also qualifying for the fourth time, but its last showing was in 1979.
“I thought the first two goals were very nice,” SPSU head coach Kom Momeni said. “They were high-quality goals that were created through good midfield play. The problem was that I think we stopped playing after that and there was a big lull. Our guys didn’t have the fight, the energy and the attitude that they generally bring to the table every game. Hopefully, a week from Tuesday we’re back to our old selves where we’re working hard, fighting and battling.”
The scoring began when Southern Poly’s Juan Henao, a junior midfielder, knocked in a goal off a direct free kick in the 15th minute (14:49). In the 28th minute (27:55), SPSU senior forward Emeka Maduka scored off an assist from freshman midfielder Adis Islamovic, putting the hosts up 2-0. Shortly after halftime, Spring Arbor got a goal in the 53rd minute (52:48), trimming the deficit to one. Maduka struck again for the Hornets in the 66th minute (65:15) with a goal on assists by junior defender Gabe Warner and sophomore forward Omar Kanteh.
“I thought on their goal it was just a silly defensive mistake on our part and they finished it very well,” Momeni said. “It was a very good goal for them and then a few minutes later Emeka got his second goal. It was just a classic, scrappy goal in between two guys and he finished it well. I thought offensively Emeka had a good day and hopefully he brings that in the Sweet 16."
Southern Poly outshot the guests 11-7, including 6-4 on goal. Each team finished with three saves while the Cougars had a 7-2 advantage in corner kicks.
In goal for SPSU, senior Dennis Kramer played the full 90 minutes. He collected three saves.
Prior to the match, the NAIA Champion of Character award winners for each squad were announced. Senior midfielder Andre Santos garnered the honor for the Hornets.
Southern Poly improves to 14-5-1 overall while SAU finishes 16-4-2. SPSU is making its fourth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 of the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship and takes on the Hastings (Neb.) College Broncos in a second-round contest in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 4 p.m. Central time (5 p.m. Eastern).