MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Florida Memorial is advancing to the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championships after a big win over top-seeded St. Thomas (STU) this weekend that resulted in them winning the Sun Conference Men’s Soccer Championships at Bobcat Field.
“We just beat a top 25 nationally ranked team. What our boys have done is remarkable and cannot be overstated,” said FMU Head Men’s Soccer Coach Fernando Valenzuela. “We do not have any seniors in our starting lineup. These kids have made their mark on FMU history with this victory. The example they have set for years to come is huge.”
St. Thomas (12-4-1), the three-time Sun Conference champions, was no match for the seventh-seeded Florida Memorial (8-10). The Lions blanked the Bobcats and finished with a 2-0 victory. FMU’s Jose Bazterrica scored the game-winning goal in the first minute of the game on a header off a cross by Martin Scapparone. The score remained 1-0 until “an own goal” by St. Thomas gave the Lions a 2-0 lead with 15 minutes to play in regulation.
“I commend Coach Valenzuela for building a highly-skilled and competitive team. Our kids play to win,” said Robert Smith, FMU athletic director. “We believe in our team, so, it was no surprise that they won the conference.”
FMU goalkeeper Pablo Terminiello recorded the shutout. St. Thomas had 13 shots on goal, yet only two required saves by Terminiello. St. Thomas goalkeeper Lyle Howe made nine saves and allowed one goal on 11 shots on goal by the Lions. The university’s athletic chief has a stern warning for competitors.
“We are the most dangerous team in the tournament. If I were coaching another team, I would be afraid to coach against FMU. I would not want to play us,” Smith said.
Florida Memorial beat the odds en route to the conference championship. The championship run began with a win at No. 2-seeded SCAD Savannah on Nov. 3 in the tournament quarterfinals. The Lions defeated the Bees on 5-4 on penalty kicks in a game that ended in a 1-1 tie. The Lions moved on to the Sun Conference final four hosted by regular season champion St. Thomas. The eventual champions defeated Embry-Riddle 2-0 on Friday, setting up Saturday’s championship game vs. the top-seeded Bobcats.
“I am very proud of our team. We have scaled a higher mountain,” Valenzuela added.
The Lions are now headed to play Auburn University at Montgomery (Ala.) in the NAIA Men’s National Championship. The tournament comprises 32 teams and the competition continues until there is one winner.
Category: FMU in the News