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UWS wins first UMAC soccer title (updated)

Photo Courtesy of UW-Superior.

The third time was a charm for the University of Wisconsin-Superior men’s soccer team.

The Yellowjackets erased the memory of losing two straight Upper Midwest Athletic Conference playoff championship games to St. Scholastica with a shootout victory over the Saints Saturday evening at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth.

“It was a great win against a strong team,” UWS coach Joe Mooney said. “It was everything you would want in a championship match — up and down play, chances and near misses for both sides. The crowd was electric and our fans really carried the energy throughout the night.

“Hat’s off to St. Scholastica, the deserving regular-season champions, on a great game. They were terrific and so were we. Neither team deserved to lose. I am extremely proud of our student-athletes, especially our seniors who all stepped up. I said at the beginning of the season that this is a special group of players and they proved that Saturday night.”

Superior’s first UMAC title, and first championship since winning the WIAC playoffs in 2013, didn’t come easy.

After St. Scholastica’s Juan Ochoa scored in the first half and UWS’s Elliot Chapman scored on a penalty kick in the second half, the teams played through two scoreless 10-minute overtimes before the Yellowjackets won a penalty-kick shootout 4-2.

The Yellowjackets (14-6-2) will make their NCAA tournament debut this weekend against St. Thomas in St. Paul.

The Tommies are the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions and finished the season with a record of 19-1 and ranked No. 5 nationally.

Other teams in the regional include California Lutheran University and Loras College.

“We’ve knocked on the door of the tournament a couple of times so we are excited to have our season continue,” Mooney said. “It’s an important step for our program to take. With the talent and leadership we have with this group of young men, anything can happen now.”

The Saints outshot the Yellowjackets 10-5 in the first half and eventually netted the game’s first goal in the 39th minute when Ochoa took a pass from former Superior Spartan Logan Kittelson and scored on a breakaway.

The assist by Kittelson, a sophomore defenseman, was his first collegiate point.

The tables turned in the second half as UWS outshot St. Scholastica 12-6 and tied the game in the 82nd minute when Chapman’s penalty kick went into the bottom left corner past keeper Sandy Davidson-Hunt.

The shootout started with UWS coach Joe Mooney replacing starting keeper Dalton VonKaenel with freshman Ulrik Lager.

“Our players were really confident going into the shootout,” Mooney said. “We knew which shooters we wanted before the game started, but we had to make a few adjustments because of injuries and fatigue. 

“The decision to go with Ulrik instead of Dalton in the shootout had nothing to do with ability. Our staff and team have absolute faith in either goalkeeper to do the job. I spoke to both players before the game and told them our plan. I wanted Dalton to focus on the game itself and Ulrik had fresh legs and had 110 minutes to focus on the shootout.”

UWS went first with Chapman converting on his attempt. The Saints missed their first opportunity but evened it 1-1 after the Yellowjackets missed and Jacob Carson scored in the second round.

Gunnar O’Neil-Sengbu scored to put the ’Jackets up 2-1, but Luke Buckton answered back for the Saints to even it 2-2. Gustavo Barbieri then gave the Yellowjackets a 3-2 lead before St. Scholastica missed on their next chance.

The win was locked up with a conversion by Leonardo Peredes.

VonKaenel finished with eight saves and Lager had two (both during PK shootout). Davidson-Hunt also stopped eight shots for the Saints.

“Dalton had the best game of his career and proved why he is one of the top keepers in the region,” Mooney said. “Both Dalton and Ulrik had lights-out performances in their respective roles and that really made my job easy as a coach.

“I have a ton of respect for both young men to understand the bigger picture, trust our decision and execute their roles. All the while, being each other’s biggest supporters.”

’JACKET JOTTINGS: UWS’s Fernando Bicalho was named the tournament MVP after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against Northwestern in Thursday’s semifinal. … Despite winning the WIAC tournament in 2014, UWS failed to earn a NCAA berth (The WIAC automatic berth for the NCAA tournament is given to the regular-season champion). … In the previous two title games, CSS prevailed last year in penalty kicks at Saints Field and won 5-0 in 2015 at Ordean Stadium. … The Saints lead the all-time series with UWS 14-6-4, which includes a 2-1 win Oct. 3 at Saints Field. … The last time the two teams met at PSS, UWS prevailed 1-0 in double overtime in 2011. … UWS also beat the Saints in overtime in 2006 at PSS. … The Saints’ season ends with a 14-6-1 overall record.

UWS 2, Northwestern 1, OT

UWS advanced to the UMAC championship game with a 2-1 overtime win over Northwestern Thursday at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.

The Saints advanced to the title game with a 2-1 win over Minnesota Morris.

UWS defeated Northwestern 3-0 on Oct. 17 and things look like they were trending the same way when the Yellowjackets took a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute when Gunnar O’Neil-Sengbu scored with assists from Blake Doyea and Eric Watson.

UWS seemingly took a 2-0 lead in the 34th minute on a goal by Mualigbe Keita. But after Keita’s initial shot on goal, he was called offside, and his goal waived off.

UWS remained in control until half time and it wasn’t until the 77th minute that the Eagles found the equalizer with a goal from Taylor Modaff off a corner kick.

Neither squad could muster another goal in regulation and the game moved into overtime, which only lasted 1:32 when Doyea burst up the middle of the field with the ball and was tackled at the 20-yard-line, which resulted in a yellow card to Northwestern and a free kick to the ’Jackets.

Bicalho was selected to attempt the kick and sent the ball over a wall of Eagle defenders and into the top-left corner of the goal for the game-winner.

VonKaenel finished with five saves for UWS, including a critical one in the opening minute of the game and two in waning minutes of the second half.

Turner Main had two saves for Northwestern.

UW-Superior................... 0       1         0         0        —        1

St. Scholastica................ 1       0         0         0        —        1

First Half — 1. CSS, Juan Ochoa (Logan Kittelson), 38.33.

Second Half — UWS, Elliot Chapman (penalty kick), 81:10.

Saves — Dalton VonKaenel, UWS 8. Ulrik Lager, UWS 2 (both during PK shootout). Sandy Davidson-Hunt, CSS, 8.

UMAC Men’s Soccer Tournament

Monday, Oct. 30

Minnesota Morris 1, Martin Luther 0

Thursday, Nov. 2

St. Scholastica 2, Minnesota Morris 1

UW-Superior 2, Northwestern 1, OT

Saturday, Nov. 4

Championship Game

UW-Superior 1, St. Scholastica 1 (UWS wins 4-2 in penalty kicks)