PEORIA — The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville men's soccer team will be playing Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference championship game.
The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Midwest and throughout the Midwest starting at 1:06 p.m. Sunday.
The Cougars advanced to the championship game for the second time in three years with a 2-0 semifinal victory Friday over Central Arkansas at Shea Stadium.
Aaron Lantz scored his fourth goal of the season when he accepted a pass from Kevin Stoll on the left side of the box. Lantz connected from 10 yards out at 72:04 past Central Arkansas goalkeeper Cody Gibson.
Stoll added a penalty kick at 79:43 after he was fouled in the box.
SIUE improved to 13-6 for the season. The win sets up a showdown between the top two seeds of the MVC Tournament.
While the lower seeds were victors in the quarterfinals, it was the top seeds that reigned supreme in the semifinals. Top-seeded Creighton, now 14-3-2, defeated Drake 3-2 in double overtime. SIUE, as the No. 2 seed, collected its eighth shutout of the season over sixth-seeded Central Arkansas.
"We're looking forward to competing for a championship. It is the reason why these guys play the game at this level -- to win titles. That is the goal," said SIUE coach Kevin Kalish.
Kalish said he was very pleased with his team's performance Friday.
"We have a bunch of warriors in that locker room. They showed tremendous character tonight and played a complete game on both sides of the ball," he said.
Lantz's goal lifted the Cougars in the second half. Both teams were scoreless in the first half, but SIUE picked up the pace and finished with a 19-8 advantage in shots.
"Aaron is a winner - plain and simple," Kalish said. "He's what being a Cougar soccer player is all about. He and the rest of the back four were mistake-free all night."
Stoll finished the night with a goal and an assist. After sitting two seasons with injuries, Stoll made a big contribution in a big game.
"He's showing why he is a unique and special player. He comes to play in the big games. He was very good tonight, especially on the defensive side of the ball - that says a lot considering he had a goal and an assist," Kalish said.
John Berner recorded two saves in goal and picked up the win for SIUE.
"It was an overall tremendous team effort and it is hard to single out a few players, but Devon Newport had his best game of the year. He and Peter Kelly both were such tireless workers tonight. They were active, intelligent and committed," Kalish said.
The SIUE men's soccer was the most celebrated Missouri Valley Conference team with 10 individuals earning All-Conference honors at the league's recent postseason banquet.
SIUE's coaches were awarded Coaching Staff of the Year by a vote of the league's seven coaches. The Cougars finished the regular season with a 12-6 record and a 4-2 mark in league play.
John Berner led the group of four Cougars tabbed on the MVC first team. The junior was named the Goalkeeper of the Year after posting a 0.83 goals against average with 3.5 shutouts. He posted a 9-3 record overall in goal for the Cougars.
Senior defender Benny Jeffery, sophomore defender Matt Polster, and sophomore forward Christian Volesky also were named to the first team.
SIUE's second team honorees were senior midfielder Ryan Bauer (O'Fallon, Mo.), senior midfielder Brian Groark, senior forward Peter Kelly, senior defender Aaron Lantz, and senior midfielder Kevin Stoll.
Cougar freshman Brett Lane was named to the All-Freshman team. Lane recorded one goal and one assist and played an important role on the Cougars' back line.
Volesky leads the MVC in scoring with nine goals, including four during the conference season. Polster and Jeffery were key components of a defense that has put together seven shutouts this season and had a 0.83 goals against average.
Bauer leads the team with five assists, all in SIUE victories. Kelly currently is second in scoring behind Volesky with five goals and three assists. Stoll and Lantz each have three goals and two assists for the season. Groark is sixth in scoring for the Cougars with two goals and three assists.
SIUE coach Kevin Kalish and his staff put together a strong season that included one of the nation's toughest schedules. The Cougars are ranked No. 32 in the nation in the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) as listed by the NCAA. The RPI is one of the measures used to determine at-large berths into the NCAA Tournament.