Sweeping the conference: Cardinals win both GLIAC regular-season and tournament titles for first time in school history

By Chris Oliver and Marie Nesbitt

The men’s soccer team’s eleventh straight game without a loss was their biggest one yet.

During the weekend, the Cardinals hosted the GLIAC Tournament as the No. 1 seed.  SVSU cruised past Northwood 3-0 on Friday and shut out Notre Dame 1-0 on  Sunday to win the GLIAC tournament for the first time.

The win came just one week after the Cardinals clinched their second straight regular-season GLIAC title. They are currently seeded No. 3 in the Midwest Region, and will find out who their playoff opponent will be tonight through a 7 p.m. selection show.

The Valley Vanguard

Courtesy | Justin Brouckaert

From left: Lachlan Savage, Taylor Clarke, Zach Walega and Mitch Posuniak all played in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Notre
Dame (Ohio). This is SVSU’s first GLIAC tournament win and the second time in a row it has won the regular season.

“Notre Dame is a quality team and our guys really went out there and performed great when it mattered,” said head coach Cale Wassermann.  “We made a commitment to attack and defend as a team and it worked.”

The only goal came from sophomore Craig Neal 33 minutes into the game.

“We have a lot of guys who can score on this team and with Notre Dame playing a more disciplined, conservative defense, guys who normally don’t get in there can put points up,” Wassermann said.

From there the Cardinals coasted to another shutout victory.  Against the highest scoring offense in the GLIAC, the Cardinals defense refused to break.

“Shutting out a team like that is just great,” Wassermann said.  “They have a bunch of athletic guys who are disciplined and overall solid players.”

In another impressive display on defense, the Cardinals recorded their eighth straight shutout against Division II opponents with a 3-0 victory over Northwood on Friday.  Senior forward, former GLIAC Defensive Player of the year and 2012 GLIAC Offensive Player of the Year Zach Myers started out the scoring early, scoring a little before two minutes into the game.

Junior forward Zach Walega kept the pressure on with a second goal before junior midfielder Conor Reaume fired in a third goal towards the end of the game to seal the deal.

In the two tournament games, senior goalie Jason Wise didn’t allow a goal and racked up eight saves, lowering his goals-against average to .72 for the season.  Wassermann said Wise was particularly impressive against Notre Dame.

“Jason made a tough save to his bottom left towards the end of the first half against Notre Dame that was just absolutely critical,” he said.  “Goalies usually have one or two saves during a game that just stand out and this one was definitely a gamer saver.”

The Valley Vanguard

Courtesy | Justin Brouckaert

Junior forward Zach Walega scored one of three goals against Northwood on Friday.

The Cardinals came into the tournament happy to be playing at home. During the regular season, SVSU was 8-1 at home, and Wassermann said it helped the stay focused and play better in the tournament.

“We’ve had a great, solid home record all season,” Wassermann said.  “For our players to sleep in their own beds, eat at their regular places, have friends and family there, it’s definitely an advantage at home.”

Following the tournament, four Cardinals were selected on the GLIAC All-Tournament Team: Jason Wise, Zach Myers, Taylor Clarke and Michael Lamb.  Wassermann said it was fitting that some of his best defensive players made the team.

“I think it says something that some of our more defensive-minded players made the team,” he said.  “About midway through the year we made a commitment to not get scored on starting from the forwards to the goalies and we’ve done that the rest of the way.

Along with the GLIAC All-Tournament Team, the Cardinals have won a number of individual awards, including Wassermann’s second consecutive GLIAC Coach of the Year award.

“The individual awards are great, but we’re still focused as a team and winning as a team going forward,” Wassermann said.  “And for the awards our guys have won, it just shows how hard they’ve worked this season individually.”

While the defense has been sensational throughout the season, it is hard to ignore the offensive production with the GLIAC Offensive Player of the Year on the team.

“I like to say the best defense is a good offense,” Wasserman said.  “Defense wins championships, but when your team controls the ball for most of the game, it’s tough to get scored on.”

The tournament wins give the Cardinals their first GLIAC Tournament Championship.  SVSU heads further into the postseason with an overall record of 15-2-3 and conference record of 9-2-2.

Wassermann is looking forward to finding out who the next challenger is as the Cardinals head into the NCAA Fall Championships.  Selections will be made tonight at 7 p.m.

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