TYLER – Victor Almendariz’s two-goal performance at Citizens
1st Bank-Perkins Soccer Complex on Sunday lifted the UT Tyler men’s soccer
team to a 3-0 win over Hardin-Simmons in the finals of the 2011 American
Southwest Conference Championship Tournament.
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Almendariz also earned an assist in the game, and was named
the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The conference title earns the Patriots (15-2-2) an automatic
berth into the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championships. Their first round site and
opponent will be announced Monday afternoon.
The Cowboys began the contest as the aggressor on offense,
but solid defensive play by the Patriots kept Hardin-Simmons off the scoreboard
allowing UT Tyler to slowly gain momentum.
Chris Powell recorded three shots in a span of six minutes
for the Patriots, but it was Elijah Shipman who scored the game’s first goal.
Shipman took the ball down the middle of the field and had
his initial shot blocked by Cowboy’s goalkeeper Logan Waters nearly 15 yards
from the goal. The rebound, however, moved past the Hardin-Simmons’ defenders
and Shipman second attempt gave UT Tyler a 1-0 lead in the 25th
Hardin-Simmons looked to tie the game with less than 12 minutes
to play in the first half when the Cowboys received a free kick near the
Patriots’ goal, and after blocking the initial shot, UT Tyler keeper Sergio
Gardea saved a shot from Isaiah Hicks.
The Patriots scored their second of the game in the 54th
minute. Waters knocked away a throw-in by Jake Urbaniak, but Almendariz found
the rebound and scored.
Hardin-Simmons found some rhythm offensively with less than
30 minutes to play. Gardea saved a shot by Matt Pitcock and HSU moved the ball
in front of the goal off a corner kick, but another save by Gardea kept the
Patriots’ shutout intact.
The final goal of the game came with 5:21 to play as the
Patriots pursued a 3-on-1 attack and Justin Nesmith’s pass found Almendariz
open for his second goal of the contest.
UT Tyler recorded 19 shots in the contest, including seven
Gardea, Powell and Urbaniak, last year’s tournament MVP, were
named to the all-tournament team.
Hardin-Simmons, which now stands at 11-5-3 on the season, can
still earn an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. Three Cowboys’ earned
All-Tournament honors – Hicks, Brennan Goodman and Rojo Montanez.
Adam Cecil and Brandon Dutton of Mary Hardin-Baylor and Eric
Holland and Steven Nicknish of UT Dallas were named to the all-tournament team
The Patriots, who will be making their third NCAA tournament
appearance, have now won back-to-back ASC Championships and three of the last
four league titles.