PEORIA — The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville men's soccer team will have an extra 24-hour wait to find out if the NCAA Tournament is in its future.
The NCAA will announce the 48-team field for the national tournament Monday at 4:30 p.m. CT. No. 12-ranked Creighton earned the Missouri Valley Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 2-1 win over the Cougars at Shea Stadium.
With a ranking of 32 in the RPI heading into the weekend, SIUE is a likely candidate for an at-large bid to the tournament. SIUE Head Coach Kevin Kalish made a case for SIUE's inclusion.
"I feel strongly that we should be selected tomorrow to the NCAA Tournament. We've showed we can successfully compete with any team in the nation - case in point today, as I felt we were in control throughout the game against a very good Creighton team. I feel our season's results warrant inclusion in the NCAA field as an at-large," said Kalish.
The championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference Men's Soccer Tournament was won mostly by Mother Nature. Heavy winds clocked higher than 50 miles per hour and a strong rainstorm with five minutes to play affected play.
"Obviously it affected the game," said Kalish. "With that said, we felt like we stayed true to our style of play and managed the game well. Our possession was quite good and we were on the ball and dictating the majority of the match."
The Cougars and the Bluejays were deadlocked at halftime with SIUE holding a 10-4 advantage in shots. Kevin Stoll had six of his team-leading seven shots in the first half. Stoll joined defender Matt Polster and midfielder Peter Kelly on the All-Tournament.
In the second half, SIUE came out with confidence and controlled the tempo. The game made a turn when the wind held up a kick from SIUE goalkeeper John Berner, the MVC Goalkeeper of the Year. The ensuing header was won by Creighton's Brent Kallman. Gomez was fortunate to collect the deflection to score the game's first goal at 68:39.
The Cougars continued to apply pressure and were rewarded soon thereafter.
SIUE evened the game at 79:37 when Jared Tejada scored from five yards out on a header. Stoll started the play by sending the ball to the right side of the box to Aaron Lantz. Lantz swung a perfect cross into the box as Tejada scored just inside the left post.
"When we got the goal, I thought we were in a good spot," said Kalish.
SIUE had the momentum headed into the final 10 minutes.
The Cougars had a penalty kick called at 85:37. Berner made the initial save on Andrew Ribeiro's PK attempt but followed his shot for his second goal of the season.
Heavy rains invaded Shea Stadium with five minutes to play making a final push for the Cougars difficult. SIUE finished the game with a 15-10 shot advantage.
"The guys were fully vested in this match and played tremendously," said Kalish. "Unfortunately, the game came down to a few moments and we were on the wrong side of some bad breaks."