Trojan men complete CVAC soccer tourney sweep
Published in Sports on November 8, 2004 1:56 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Saturday's win over Queens was the biggest in Mount Olive College men's soccer history. After Sunday, it was the second biggest.
Reid Clewis scored a goal in the 28th minute and tournament Most Valuable Player Chris Roush made it stand with his second shutout of the tournament as No. 4 seed Mount Olive defeated No. 2 Belmont Abbey 1-0 in the championship game of the 2004 Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Men's Soccer Tournament Sunday at Belmont Abbey College.
With the win, Mount Olive becomes the first school since 1996 to sweep both the CVAC men's and women's soccer championships. The Trojans won the CVAC Women's Soccer Championship Saturday.
Also named to the All-Tournament Team for Mount Olive were Warren Atkins, Ryan Capdepon, Michael Fuhrer and Chris Jasso.
Mount Olive (14-5-3) withstood a number of early challenges and did not get off a shot of its own until the 20th minute, when Atkins' header off a corner kick was stopped on a save by Belmont Abbey goalkeeper Sean O'Connor. The Trojans broke the deadlock at the 27:11 mark when Atkins served the ball from midfield to Clewis, who got past the defense for a breakaway goal.
The Trojans entered Sunday's contest with a 13-0-1 mark when scoring the first goal. The one tie was Saturday's penalty kick-shootout victory over Queens.
Mount Olive head coach Jerry Riggs stressed the importance of getting on the scoreboard first.
"We've kept that philosophy all season -- if we score first, we win," said Riggs. "It gives us confidence and relieves some pressure."
"Getting the first goal takes a load off the defense and the entire team," said Capdepon, a sophomore defender. "We pick up the intensity, but we also stay calm."
That Mount Olive is unbeaten this season when scoring first doesn't mean all of the wins came easily. Belmont Abbey (10-8-2) wasn't about to go down without a fight. The Crusaders nearly tied the match with less than four minutes left in the half when Luis Arrieta had a breakaway opportunity and his shot got past Roush, who came off his line to challenge. But the ball deflected off the right post and Roush was able to cover the ball before Belmont Abbey could get to it. Mount Olive held onto its 1-0 lead going into halftime.
"Coach Riggs says sometimes the soccer gods are with you and sometimes they're against you," said Roush, a freshman from Hubert. "When that ball hit the post, I knew they were smiling on us today."
Belmont Abbey continued its attack early in the second half and a frenzy in the box in the 52nd minute almost led to a Crusader goal as Brian Souza's shot deflected off Trojan defender Charles Williams and off the left post. Nick Wyatt captured the deflection but Roush dove to block his shot out of bounds for a Belmont Abbey corner kick, then Roush covered a loose ball to prevent another shot.
Belmont Abbey had another scoring opportunity eight minutes later on a service from midfield all the way to the right post, but Capdepon made a steal and cleared the ball out before the Crusaders had a chance to take a shot. In the 79th minute, Roush deflected a shot by Arrieta and Capdepon cleared the ball out of bounds off a Belmont Abbey defender.
Roush made five of his eight saves in the final 17 minutes of the match, the last save coming in the 87th minute. The Trojans were able to keep the ball out of their defensive third for the final three minutes to preserve the win.
"It got real scary there at the end," said Capdepon. "Belmont Abbey pushed hard, but the defense played tough. Chuck (Charles Williams) and Ryan (Brown) played huge. This was probably the best team defense we've played. The midfield was outstanding and the goalkeeping was great."
The Trojans allowed only one goal in three tournament matches against the Nos. 1, 2 and 5 seeds, a feat made even more remarkable considering starting defenders Michael Garrett -- a first team All-CVAC selection -- and Brandon Mills had to miss the entire tournament with knee injuries.
"The MVP award should go to the entire defense, including Garrett and Mills, who helped get us here," said Roush.
Sunday's contest marked Mount Olive's first-ever men's soccer championship and second appearance in the championship game. The Trojans fell to Queens in the championship game of the 1996 tournament. Up until this weekend, Queens was the only school to win both the CVAC men's and women's soccer tournaments in the same year, accomplishing the feat in 1995 and 1996.
The conference championship makes up for a tough end to the regular season, which saw the Trojans drop their last three conference matches and drop from a potential regular-season crown to a third-place tie in the conference standings.
"We talked about overcoming adversity," said Atkins, one of two four-year seniors on the squad. "The team showed a lot of heart in the tournament and I hope the young guys can build on that for seasons to come."
Overcoming adversity was a key for Roush, who posted a 0.33 goals against average in the tournament. The lone goal he allowed came on a penalty kick with two seconds left in the first half Saturday against Queens after he fouled a Queens player going for the ball.
"We talked about it at halftime, then Coach Riggs told me once we're back on the field, forget about it," said Roush. "He said to play smart and to play within myself."
Not only would Roush not allow another goal the remainder of the tournament, his save on Queens' final penalty kick in the shootout set the stage for Fuhrer's game-winner. Then he had to withstand a relentless Belmont Abbey attack Sunday.
"Belmont Abbey is a great team and we knew they would put a lot of pressure on us," said Riggs. "But our defense was able to meet the challenge, even with guys playing out of their normal positions because of injuries. Also credit (midfielder) Matt Hobbs for winning a lot of 50-50's and taking some pressure off the defense.
"Roush came up with some big saves and some great one-on-one challenges," said Riggs. "He was just unbelievable all weekend."
The win may also keep Mount Olive's hopes alive for a berth in the Southeast Regional of the NCAA Division II Men's Soccer Championship.
The Trojans entered the tournament ranked No. 7 in the region and defeated co-No. 1 Queens Saturday in the semifinal round. Tournament selections are expected to be announced today.
Riggs says he would love for his team to advance to the next level, but is also okay with ending the season with a conference championship.
"If we're in, we're in, if we're out, we're out," Riggs said of a possible NCAA II Tournament berth. "I hope we get a bid, but if not, winning a conference championship isn't a bad way to end the season."
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