By Chad Waller, NAIA Director of Communications & Sports Information
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - (Bracket) (Watch video of game-winning score) Eduardo Cruz hit a thrilling game-winner with :28 left to lift No. 12 Behaven (Miss.) to a 1-0 victory over defending national champ and No. 1 seed Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) today in the semifinals of the NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship, presented by Carrabba's Italian Grill. In the first postseason meeting between the two regulars, defense was the theme until Cruz's shot. Belhaven held Lindsey Wilson scoreless for the first time since the 2010 season.
Belhaven will take on the winner of the other semifinal between MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) and Mobile (Ala.), scheduled later today. The 54th annual National Championship final is scheduled for 3 p.m. CST Saturday. The event is played at the Emory Folmar Soccer Complex and co-hosted by the Central Alabama Sports Commission and the Southern States Athletic Conference.
"Anytime you get to play one of the best teams (Lindsey Wilson), you have to battle," said Belhaven head coach Brian McMahon. "We have so much respect for them every time they touch the ball. Our guys just played hard, and I am so proud of them."
Cruz was the hero thanks to his laser from 35-yards out. His marker found the back-left part of the net. He took a header pass from Marco Pavlin. As a team, the Blazer offense tallied five shots on goal, compared to four from Lindsey Wilson.
Goalkeeper Carl Blundell played all 90 minutes and recorded his seventh shutout of the season. Defensively, the Blazers did not allow a goal from either the fifth-leading scorer in the NAIA, Philip Sandgren, and or from Lebogang Moloto, who has five goals in this year's championship.
Belhaven heads to its second-ever national championship final and its first since 1992. The Blazers won their only appearance in the final, 2-1, over Lynn (Fla.) to win their first men's soccer title in school history.
NeuLion, the NAIA's official video-streaming company of 12 select NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting all matches of the 2012 Men's Soccer National Championship final site in Montgomery, Ala. Single-day packages can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-tournament pass is available for $29.95. For more information and to pre-register, click here.
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National Championship Semifinal No. 1 Notes:
• Belhaven advances to its second-all time National Championship final. The only previous occurrence was a win in the 1992 event.
• 1-0 results have been the norm in semifinal action. There have been 11 occurrences of this in semifinal action since 2000.
• The last time prior to today that Lindsey Wilson was shut out on offense was on Nov. 11, 2010 - a stretch of 48 matches.
• In all-time semifinal appearances, Belhaven (Miss.) improves to 2-0-1 all-time, while Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) falls to 9-4-0 all-time.
• No. 12 Belhaven becomes the first double-digit seed to play in the title game since No. 15 The Master's (Calif.) did so in 2009. The Mustangs eventually lost, 1-0 to Lindsey Wilson.
• If Belhaven were to play Mobile (Ala.) in the national championship final, the Blazers lost in the only postseason meeting, 4-3, in the 2010 Second Round. The Blazers have never faced MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) in the postseason.
• Belhaven is trying to become the ninth different team in NAIA men's soccer history to win multiple national championships.
• Out of the Southern States Athletic Conference, Belhaven is the first from the league since Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) in 2004 to play in the final.
• Lindsey Wilson had its streak of eight-straight wins in the National Championship snapped. The last loss previously was in the 2010 Opening Round.
• There have been two double-overtime matches, all occurring in the Second Round which brings the 2012 total to five in this year's National Championship.