The 2015 Men’s Soccer Western Athletic Conference Championship Tournament did not include the University of Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos. However, that did not change the venue, Durwood Soccer Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, scheduled over the summer.
UMKC men’s soccer finished the season just out of contention for a tournament appearance. Despite a 2-6-1 start, including a five game losing streak, the Kangaroos were still in contention on the last day of the regular season.
Even without the Roos, there was plenty of excitement and good outdoor soccer in Kansas City the second weekend in November.
The third seed in the six team tournament, University of Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels boasted the nation’s 4th best goal scorer in Division One Soccer. Sophomore Forward Danny Musovski scored 14 goals heading into the tournament and was named WAC Offensive Player of the Week for the first week in November.
The second seeded team, Utah Valley, included Freshman Midfielder Aaron Meyer, who with 11 assists stood tied for third in the country before the tournament began.
The top seeded Seattle University Redhawks entered the tournament with a 9-1 conference record and only three losses all season. Ranked in the top 25 nationally since late September, their 16-3 overall record to end the season placed them 15th in the final regular season poll. Sixteen wins also tied them with Creighton for most in the nation.
Seattle U.’s star player, David Olsen, had 13 goals coming into the tournament.
The first game pitted UNLV against six seed, the San Jose State University Spartans. San Jose State eliminated the Kangaroos on the last day of the regular season by playing to a draw with CSU-Bakersfield. Musovsky needed two goals to tie the lead for most in the country.
However, it was his UNLV teammates who scored and took control of the game early. In the 17th minute Junior Midfielder Kevin Partida bounced a shot off a defender and over the keeper’s head to get the offense started. In the 21st minute Sophomore Midfielder Shota Takada scored from ten yards out and UNLV went into the break with a 2-0 lead.
Musovski got in on the action with an assist to Sophomore Midfielder Blake Balelo in the 71st minute. San Jose State got on the board late with a header off the corner by Sophomore Forward Greg Harte. The match ended 3-1 with UNLV moving on to face Utah Valley University in the semifinal. UNLV owned a thrilling 2-1 overtime decision against Utah Valley in late October.
Fourth seeded Houston Baptist was the only team in the WAC with a win over nationally ranked Seattle. They squared off against fifth seed CSU-Bakersfield in the final first round match. With a potential rematch against Seattle University on the line, the Huskies had much to play for.
The Roadrunners of CSU-Bakersfield had five ties on the season, but that was not an option in the tournament format. The first half ended scoreless as each team had four shots. With the Huskies outshooting the Roadrunners 6-2 twenty-five minutes into the second period, there was still no score.
Regulation ended scoreless and the match headed into sudden victory overtime.
Houston Baptist Goalkeeper Chance Pope extended the game with a phenomenal save seven minutes into the first sudden victory period. The second sudden victory started with still no score.
Another scoreless ten minutes forced penalty kicks.
Both teams kept their starting Keepers in the game. The first penalty shot was taken and scored by CSUB’s Hugo Vinales. Houston Baptist responded with a score from Marcelo Acuna. The teams both scored in the second set of PK’s, but Pope saved one for Houston Baptist on the third try. CSUB responded with a stop in the third try as well.
The fourth and fifth shots sealed the deal for CSUB as they made both while Houston Baptist missed one. After over 100 minutes of soccer, CSUB moved on to face the top seeded Seattle University in the second semifinal.
In the first semifinal on Friday night, the second seeded Utah Valley Wolverines looked to redeem their overtime loss to the UNLV Rebels. Danny Musovski of UNLV still needed two goals to tie for most in the nation.
A Utah Valley shot off an indirect kick was just wide of the far post fifteen minutes in while the two teams battled hard for possession the entire half. A UNLV shot off a corner kick also sailed just wide of the post as the teams continued jockeying for a good shot opportunity.
With four minutes left before half, Utah Valley could not convert a corner kick into a score and the half ended all nil.
Ten minutes into the second half, neither team could put the ball in net. A streak towards the goal and deflected shot from Utah Valley’s Karson Payton was the only offense either team could create until the Wolverines Skyler Milne scored in the 66th minute.
Leading 1-0, the Utah Valley Wolverines maintained possession and found revenge as well as a spot in the WAC tournament final.
In the second semifinal, the well-rested Seattle University Redhawks faced the CSUB Roadrunners. The Roadrunners were playing the nation’s wins leader less than 24 hours after outlasting Houston Baptist in the First Round.
It took 24 minutes for Seattle to get on the board with an unassisted goal by Sophomore Midfielder Alex Roldan.
In the 27th minute, Sophomore Midfielder David Olsen scored Seattle’s second goal with an assist coming from Freshman Sergio Rivas.
The Redhawks kept constant pressure on the CSU-Bakersfield defense and entered intermission up 2-0.
Olsen made it 3-0 Redhawks in the 57th minute. His second goal in the semifinal moved him into a tie for second in the nation with 15 goals. Less than a minute later Senior Michael Roberts made it a 4-0 blowout with an unassisted goal.
The match ended 4-0 Redhawks and the top two teams advanced to face off in the final. Seattle University ended the regular season with a 2-0 win over Utah Valley, and appeared to be playing at the highest of levels.
With a League title and National Championship berth on the line, both teams started with a strong pace. Utah Valley defended well with a tight set up in the box but Seattle U.’s front five kept constant pressure.
A header by Olsen off a corner kick in the 17th minute sailed just over the cross. Utah Valley’s Alex Nuff sent a quality free kick to Milne who nearly capitalized with a header, but also sent it just over the cross. The technical contest continued without a score throughout the first half.
Both teams continued the physical play in the second half. The big bodies of Milne and Neff were a constant presence for the Wolverines. A scramble of headers looked like it would create the first goal of the day, but Seattle’s Keeper Shane Haworth secured the ball once again.
With less than 33 to play and still no score, Neff pushed a free kick up the field to Milne once again. The Wolverines were unable to convert, and a head-to-head collision brought out the athletic trainers.
It was evident on the field that both teams were willing to risk it all for a berth in the national tournament. Finally capitalizing on a penalty, Neff lasered a free kick into the net to score for Utah Valley in the 63rd minute.
Unwilling to go out without a fight, Olsen responded by streaking down the field and placing a powerful shot himself, but a quality save by Collin Partee prevented an even score.
The Wolverines led 1-0 with 20 minutes to play, and the reversal of a week-old victory by the Redhawks appeared to be the case.
However, Seattle U. had a final opportunity with less than four minutes to play. A penalty in the box on the Wolverines gave Redhawks’ senior Hamza Haddadi a Penalty Kick which he converted into a goal.
Haddadi, a standout who had been injured all season, provided the equalizer in his first minutes since October fourth.
A red card on Partee ejected him from the game as time winded down in regulation. Fortunately, the illegal collision did not result in a serious injury to Olsen, the nation’s second leading scorer.
In the first sudden victory period, neither team could execute with a Golden Goal.
With the score still 1-1 after the second overtime, the game went to a shootout.
Seattle University made all five penalty kicks and surged into the NCAA tournament with 18 wins, a regular season WAC Championship and the WAC Tournament Championship.