Clan fail to advance, still make history
Before their Final Four appearance, the Simon Fraser men’s soccer team had already made history. They were the first non- American school to compete in the NCAA championship tournament, and put together several excellent games to make it to the semifinals. Going into the game, the Clan were on a 15-unbeaten streak, and were the only top-rank seed left in the tournament. Their opponents from Saginaw Valley State, the Cardinals, were no slouches themselves, riding a 13-game winning streak into the match. The Clan were a little slow out of the gate, and goaltender JD Blakely made two saves early on to keep the game even. But in the 15th minute, Cardinal forward Zach Walega buried the ball in the top of the net after receiving the ball in the box. The lead remained at halftime. Carlo Basso came closest to tying the game in the 19th minute, but the ball clanked off the post and out. The Clan only managed one shot on target in the first half, but Blakely made three saves in the other net.
The second half didn’t start the way that SFU had hoped. In the 52nd minute, Cardinal midfielder Lachlan Savage knocked in goal number 11 on the year, and gave Saginaw Valley a 2–0 lead. Four minutes later, the Cardinals pushed their lead out of the Clan’s reach when Zach Myers buried the insurance marker. Just after falling behind by three, Basso got the Clan on the board, cutting the lead to 3–1. That was as close as they would get, and with the loss they were eliminated from the tournament. “To lose in the semifinal of a Final Four is incredibly frustrating. I take my hat off to Saginaw Valley, their work rate was incredible,” said Clan head coach Alan Koch after the loss. Despite being unable to bring the championship title back to Burnaby, the Clan should hold their heads high. Blakely who backstopped the Clan for the whole tournament, had a bittersweet feeling about the season, “We battled through some hard times. Coming into the NCAA tournament for the first time was exciting, and we took it in stride. To end it here is certainly frustrating, though.”
The Clan finish the season with a 19–2–1 record, their only other loss came earlier in the year, when they fell at the hands of the Northwest Nazarene Crusaders. After the tournament, two members of the team were selected to the 2012 First Team All-Americans by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NCSAA): Basso and Michael Winter. Helge Neumann earned Second Team honours. Neumann was also named to the NSCAA Scholar All-American team, which requires a 3.30 grade point average throughout the athlete’s career.