Dec. 3, 2009

 

By Carl Kotala
Special To NCAA.com
 
TAMPA -
Two players returning from injury certainly made their presence felt in the NCAA Division II men’s soccer semifinals on Thursday.
 
Fort Lewis senior forward David Barden, playing in his first game in three weeks, had a hat trick in the Skyhawks’ 8-2 victory over Le Moyne at Pepin Stadium.
 
In the other semifinal, two-time former All-America Lee Squires scored the game-tying goal and then successfully converted a penalty kick as No. 9 Lees-McRae defeated No. 20 Lewis 5-3 on penalty kicks.
 
“I’m just happy to be playing,” said Squires, who was playing in just his eighth game this season after recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.
 
“Back in April, when I had a bad injury, I didn’t know if I would be playing or not. All throughout the season, I’ve been getting up at 7:30-8 o’clock in the morning, getting in the gym with Coach (Christopher Whalley) and just hoping play some part of the season. To come back … it’s great personally, but it’s more about the team.”
 
Barden’s injury was a little more mysterious. What was first believed to be a sprained foot turned out to be a fracture in the top of his foot. He entered the game with 20:50 remaining in the first half and the score tied at 1-1. His header, on a perfect cross from teammate Tom Settle, gave the Skyhawks the lead – and some momentum.
 
He followed that up with two more goals in the first six minutes of the second half as No. 1 Fort Lewis scored three times to blow open a close game.
 
“I just did my part to raise the level of play, pressure the ball because we were seeing their backs couldn’t do anything with pressure … they started sitting back and Settle and I did our thing,” Barden said. “He knows where I’m going to be all the time and he whipped it in and I put the second goal in.”
 
It was Barden’s second goal that helped ignite the Skyhawks’ six-goal binge in the second half as Le Moyne began to unravel. But it was also one the 6-foot-4 senior could laugh about, because it came not from his foot or his head – but his chest.
 
“I think from there, it was me being relaxed and coming out in the second half and do what we do – get on the end of each cross,” Barden said. “I was lucky enough to deflect Jeff Jennings’ shot and steal the goal. I’ll take it.”
 
Squires’ goal had some fortune to it as well. Freshman Jamie Bladen took a shot that was deflected by Lewis goalkeeper Sebastian Kieruzal and the ball went right to the junior forward, who was just outside the box. And just when his team needed him most, he came through.
 
“Yeah, it’s pleasing. I’ve put in a lot of hard work for a long time,” Squires said. “I’m still not fully fit. I just do what I can to help the team. The guys have put in the hard work all year. To help out … you can’t describe it.”
 
One of those two players will walk away a national champion on Saturday. Fort Lewis (23-1) will face Lees-McRae (19-2-1) at 4 p.m. And as both players proved Thursday, the will each play a vital role in their team’s success – even if they have to come off the bench.
 
In some ways, it just seemed like old times for two key players. They helped their teams to victory.
 
“We’ve just been taking time off, trusting the other boys to get us to where we are and this is my first game back,” Barden said. “Obviously, you could see I was excited to get back in. Everything just goes back to normal, the way it’s supposed to. But that’s the team right there.”