Southern Wesleyan University scored a goal in the 32nd minute of the first half and then did an excellent job of playing ball control the remaining 60 minutes in defeating the Flames 1-0 and claiming the championship honors.
“It is a sickening feeling when you come up short in a championship game,” said coach Paul Furey. “But we can’t overlook the special season we have had. This is a terrific group of young players who have the potential to come back to a national tournament.”
“I feel for our two seniors who were playing today,” he added. “Ben (Armstrong) had an outstanding season playing on the back line. It was especially tough on me for Chevy (Roberts). He really became such a vital part of our success this year. I know he wanted to go out of top.”
Joao Oliveira scored what turned out to be the winning goal off a rebound of a saved shot. Douglas Andrade recorded the assist. Early in the hard fought contest, the Flames had their best opportunity to score when two shots missed inside the box.
For the game, Lee only managed eight shots and had four on goal. The Warriors attempted 10 and had three on target in the defensive struggle. Tom Halsall had two saves in the loss and Ruben Rodriguez had four saves in the win.
The Flames, who were playing their fourth game in five days in order to reach the championship round, came out with renewed life in the second half and were rewarded with all six of their corner kicks. SWU had only two.
Quade Marinell, David Perez and Gabe Franco were named to the All-NCCAA Tournament Team. Franco was awarded the tournament’s top defensive trophy. The Flames were the tourney’s sportsmanship award winner.
“Quade and David both had exceptional tournaments. Gabe not only played solid for us on the back, he contributed two important goals and an assist as a defender,” Furey noted.
“The experience of the NCCAA national tournament was great for our guys,” the coach stressed. “We wanted to make our university proud by winning a national championship. We came up a bit short but represented Lee with pride.”
Furey offered a special thanks to all the support his team received from the Lee fans. “The students, the faculty, staff and administrators have been great. That is what makes it great to be a Lee student athlete.”
FLAMES 2, SUNBIRDS 1
Lee’s amazing run continued on Friday afternoon with a 2-1 victory over top-seeded Fresno Pacific in the semi-final round of the NCCAA National Championship.
The Flames got out of the gate quickly and scored at the 9:09 mark on Quade Marinell's seventh goal of the year. Gabe Franco was credited with the assist.
The Sunbirds tied the contest at one in the 31st minute after Lee was called for a foul inside the box. Gustavo Silva was awarded the penalty kick and promptly knocked in his 13th goal of the year.
The rugged and sometimes hard-hitting battle continued into the 80th minute but the determined Flames refused to back away. Franco scored off a rebound deep inside the box at the 80:14 mark. Jonathan Perelman got the assist. It was Franco's third goal of the year.
The Flames did an excellent job of taking care of the ball and took only nine shots but placed six on goal. Fabian Rangel had four saves for the losers. On the other hand, the Sunbirds attempted 18 shots and had seven on target. Lee keeper Tom Halsall was a standout again with six hard-earned saves.
"Anytime that you are playing for a national championship, your team has accomplished something special," said a delighted coach Paul Furey. "This team has really had that special kind of season.
"We have good players but it is more about character and mentality. Our team has demonstrated both of those things together to make this an outstanding year."