The SVSU men’s soccer team’s special season came to an end in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Division II playoffs, as Ohio Valley handed the Cardinals just its third loss of the season, 1-0.
Ohio Valley’s Miguel Sarmiento scored a goal in the 12th minute, and the OVU defense stifled SVSU for the duration of the match as the Fighting Scots held on by a slim margin.
SVSU’s leading goal scorer, Azaad Liadi, who scored nine goals this season, did not play in the match, as he was given his eighth yellow card of the season in the team’s second round win over Southern Indiana. Per NCAA rules, this deemed him ineligible for the contest with OVU.
“He was missed, as his form has been spectacular, but he is aware that gathering that many yellow cards will lead to late season suspensions,” head coach Andy Wagstaff said. “Let’s hope this is a lesson to the whole team to make sure we avoid these issues in the future.”
The first half was unusual for the team, which is used to dominating possession and outshooting its opponents in nearly every match its played this season. However, it was the Fighting Scots that had the better of the Cardinals in the match’s opening 45 minutes.
Sarmiento’s goal came as the two teams fought for possession outside the SVSU goalie box. Sarmiento received a pass from Jorge Pradillos and blasted a shot from 25 yards out past SVSU keeper Lukas Betz, giving Ohio Valley the 1-0 lead.
“The defending that led to the goal was not good from our perspective,” Wagstaff said. “Nobody can deny that the strike was spectacular and was impossible for Lukas to save. I just feel like we could have cleared the ball three times before it fell to their scorer.”
The Fighting Scots continued to pressure SVSU after the goal, as they outshot the Cardinals 5-3 and had a 3-0 advantage in shots on goal during the first half. They also had a 2-1 advantage over the Cardinals in corner kicks. Betz made two saves in the first half.
As the second half began, the Cardinals had a great chance about five minutes in when sophomore midfielder Alex Gloshen sent a pass to sophomore forward Michael Hamilton, who nearly scored, but the ball sailed just over the net. This led to a pair of Cardinal corner kicks, but both came up empty.
As the middle of the second half passed, the ball spent a lot of time around midfield as the teams struggled to maintain possession and no real chances were had.
“We have shot the ball 20-30 times a game this season, but OVU limited our chances all night,” Wagstaff said. “It was frustrating that we just could not find the quality to dominate them in their half.”
With about 18 minutes left in the game, a through ball went into freshman forward Ryan Pierson just inches away from net, but solid defense by OVU prevented a goal.
As the half concluded, the Cardinals struggled to maintain possession despite being the team that needed a goal to save its season. OVU did a nice job of delaying play and milking clock while also maintaining a strong amount of possession.
With four and a half to play, the Cardinals were awarded a corner kick that sailed in, produced a few chances on headers and shots, but the defense of OVU was too much and held strong.
SVSU continued to struggle to hold much possession as the clocked winded down on their season, and the Fighting Scots took the game 1-0.
“I thought we performed below our normal level and standards against OVU,” Wagstaff said. “OVU made it very tough for us from a system standpoint.”
OVU outshot the Cardinals 7-5. SVSU was unable to do much with the corner kicks and possession they did get in the second half.
The Cardinals finish the year with a record of 11-3-6. The season featured a draw with the NCAA Division II defending national champion, University of Charleston. This was the Cardinals’ second GLIAC championship in three years, the program’s sixth trip to the NCAA Playoffs in the past seven years and SVSU’s first appearance in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament since 2014.
“This team was a brilliant group of young men that made us proud,” Wagstaff said. “The future looks bright, and we are already recruiting the players we need to make another run next year, but our goal will be to get further.”
In addition to the team accolades, the Cardinals had three members named to D2CCA All-Midwest Region teams. Senior defender Omar Sinclair was named to the first team, after also winning the GLIAC Defensive Player of the Year award, while Liadi and senior midfielder Michael Shaikly were both named to the second team.