Championship Bound: Simonsen's Pair of Goals Sends JBU to Conference Title Game
SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (November 6, 2012) — Freshman midfielder Eli Simonsen netted a pair of goals four minutes apart while John Brown received a four-save shutout effort from junior keeper Pablo Garcia to advance to the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament championship game, defeating eighth-seeded Oklahoma City today at Alumni Field, 2-0.
The No. 5 Golden Eagles now find itself hosting the tournament championship match, inviting No. 7 Oklahoma Baptist to Alumni Field on Friday (Nov. 9) for a 2:00 p.m. start. Not only will a conference tournament championship be on the line, also awaiting the winner is an automatic berth to the NAIA men's soccer national tournament.
"We're really excited and I think the boys have really earned this," said head coach John Miglarese. "It's been a while since John Brown has been in a tournament championship match, and we couldn't be more thrilled.
"I knew they would come at us after defeating USAO a few days ago. Credit to our guys, we really took it to them in the first half, really outplayed them and possessed well which put them back on their heels."
JBU began the game strong, posting a 9-5 shot advantage in the first half.
The Golden Eagles had its best scoring chance occur early in the 21st minute as Daniel Forry broke in alone on the Stars' keeper, but was unable to bury a strike to the far corner, keeping the match scoreless.
Just moments later in the 26th minute, Martin Gonzalez was whistled offside as the striker found himself all along with OCU netminder Joe Shulberg, ready to knock in a rebound off the crossbar.
Not deterred by its near-misses, John Brown was granted a direct kick in the middle of the field, 22 yards out, as the clock ticked closer to the halftime buzzer. Due to Oklahoma City's lack of enthusiasm to get in position for the kick, the referee signaled the clock to be stopped with 11 seconds left in the half.
Simonsen took the ensuing kick, depositing the hard shot around the Stars wall and into the top left corner of the net to the delight of home crowd as halftime commenced.
"A really just had a go at it," admitted Simonsen. "To be honest, I was quite surprised myself. It was one of my best hits. The plan was always to bend it over the wall and strike the ball to that area.
"That rarely happens. You just have to believe."
After upending No. 1 seed Science and Arts (Okla.), who was also ranked No. 3 in the nation in the latest coaches' poll, in penalty kicks a few days prior, Oklahoma City emerged from halftime a new team, not before John Brown earned a prime scoring chance.
JBU was able to double its lead in the 49th minute when Luke Theimer drew a foul in the box, awarding the host squad a penalty kick opportunity. Simonsen was called upon by Miglarese to take the shot and the Faroe Islands native made no mistake, placing a low, hard kick into the left corner, building the score to 2-0.
The penalty kick conversion was Simonsen's third of the season. He had converted two in a single game earlier this season in a 2-2 draw against Union (Tenn.).
Outstanding play from the JBU back line held the OCU offense to the outsides and cleared any through balls or crosses attempted into Garcia's box.
Garcia recorded four saves on the match, all in the second half. None was bigger than his save on Daniel Yeom in the 88th minute.
A result of a broken play in the box, Yeom was able to turn and unleash a shot from only a few yards out. Garcia was up to the task, quickly shooting his fists above his head, deflecting the ball over the crossbar.
Oklahoma City held an 8-5 advantage in corner kicks and held a 10-4 margin in fouls. The Stars were booked twice in the match, both occurring in its furious second-half comeback bid. OCU's leading scorer, Adam Black, was limited in today's match despite recording nine shots. None of the attempts found their target.
Simonsen paced the JBU offense with four shots on goal. Theimer and Forry each added two apeice.
"We have a lot of freshman and sophomores out there that haven't played in this type of situation," added Miglarese. "While we panicked a bit in the second half, playoff games are crazy. The smallest of margins determine the result. I firmly believe we belong in this championship match."
With the win, John Brown ups its season record to 9-6-2 while Oklahoma City finishes its campaign with an 8-7-2 overall mark.