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(November 15, 2020 10:07 PM) Senior Cole Russell scored a golden goal with 3:22 remaining in the second overtime period to propel fourth-seeded Spring Arbor University to a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over sixth-seeded Grace College in of the Crossroads League Men’s Soccer Tournament Championship on Saturday at the Cougar Soccer Complex.

The win gave the Cougars their third tournament title, and first since 2016, and secured their spot in the 2020 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship, which is slated to begin Apr. 22.

THE BASICS

SCORE: Spring Arbor 2, Grace 1

LOCATION: Cougar Soccer Complex | Spring Arbor, Mich.

RECORDS: Spring Arbor 7-2-2, Grace 5-4-2

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

·         The match was scoreless through the first 60 minutes, but the deadlock was broken with a goal from Grace’s Ulisses Miranda.

·         Spring Arbor found the equalizer in the 75th minute. A cross from Aidan Taylor found Russell in the box, and Russell’s header beat the Lancer goalkeeper to even the score at 1-1.

·         SAU goalkeeper Christopher Banfi would make a pair of key saves late in regulation to send the two teams into overtime.

·         With time winding down in overtime and penalty kicks looming, Russell delivered the biggest goal of his career. The senior chased a long ball from Michael Procopio into the corner before being tripped up by a Grace defender. But, refusing to quit on the play, Russell hustled to pressure the goalkeeper and blocked the clearance attempt. He quickly chased down the loose ball just outside the 18-yard box, and managed to get off a shot while falling backwards that found its way into the empty net.

 

QUOTES FROM HEAD COACH JOSH OAKLEY

·         “The challenges this fall were immense. Not just for our team, but the whole of the league and beyond. We are grateful for the opportunity to play this season and win this title.”

·         “To begin the Crossroads League season this year it was determined that league play would be divided across play in two divisions. We were put in the toughest division. Mind you, all four teams from our original division played in the semifinals this week. After the divisions were done away with due to many teams having to deal with being quarantined, we too had players with COVID-19.  Some would miss almost four weeks and we went down to Marian to grind out a draw without four top players in the last game of the shortened regular season. We missed our captain for multiple games leading into and in the playoffs. Tonight, Ty went off with a hamstring injury just 19 mins into the match. On this road to a championship, we beat the back-to-back defending tourney champs Huntington in the quarterfinal, went on the road to beat an amazingly talented Bethel team, and came from behind tonight to win over a fantastic Grace side. The resilience is amazing within our group. After starting this crazy fall season losing our first two games, we finished unbeaten from September 24 to November 14, and got that elusive tourney title we’ve waited for four years for. I cannot put into words how happy I am for this team and program. The whole team earned this day by day, minute by minute throughout the season. Cole Russell was fantastic tonight. His effort, work-rate and winner’s heart carried us to a championship.”

UP NEXT

The match brought an end to the fall season for Spring Arbor. But, with the win, the Cougars earned the Crossroads League’s automatic bid to the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship this spring.

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