Nov. 14, 2010

Courtesy of Cal State Chico Athletics

Tyson Crim scored the equalizer with 3:46 to play and Zach Bradford's low, bouncing shot from 35 yards completed the stunning comeback with 1:48 to go as the Chico State men's soccer team defeated 7th-ranked Grand Canyon 2-1 for the NCAA Championship Tournament West Region title Sunday afternoon at University Soccer Stadium.

"It was such an amazing feeling," said Wildcats Assistant Coach Donny Ribaudo, the acting head coach Sunday with Felipe Restrepo serving a red-card suspension. "I thought we played a great game and fought the entire time. We made a couple different changes at the end when we put three in the back and went for it, and the guys got it done. It was awesome."

The Wildcats, now 15-6-0, advance to the NCAA Championship Tournament Quarterfinals where they'll host South Region Champion Midwestern State of Wichita Falls, Tex., next Saturday at 1 p.m. at University Soccer Stadium.

Grand Canyon finished its season 15-3-2, though the 'Lopes held a second-half lead for nearly 35 minutes following Joao Vieira's goal in the 52nd minute.

Kyle Ciliento's cross put the Wildcats in danger. Chico State defender Jacob Darr challenged Grand Canyon's Mitchell Garcia in the air and won half the battle. But the ball dropped right to the feet of Vieira, who was completely unmarked. He had time to survey the situation and waited for Wildcats Goalkeeper Sam Evans to make a move before countering with a low liner into the far corner from 15 yards for his fourth goal of the season and second of the regional.

It looked as though the lead might stand up, but with less than four minutes to play the Wildcats finally broke through. Grand Canyon was unable to get the ball out of its end on consecutive Chico State corner kicks and a half-hearted clearance attempt eventually found its way to defender Ryan Nevarez on the right flank. He sent a looping ball toward the near post that Tyson Crim directed just inside the bar with the back of his head to knot the score a 1-1.

Less than two minutes later, Bradford made the crowd go bananas with the game winner. Again, Grand Canyon was unable to move the ball out of its own end. This time the ball came out of the mix up the middle following a cross. Bradford ran on to the rolling ball and hit a worm-burner that snuck by a large contingent in front of the goal, through the legs of Ferid Celosmanovic, and just inside the right post.

"Tyson (Crim) and Luke (Palmer) and one of their players all went up for it and it hit and bounced back towards me perfectly," said Bradford, who was named the Tournament's Most Valuable Player. "I just saw it and said to myself `hit it on goal,' and I hit it, and it was going straight to Ferid and he spread his legs so it went right through so the keeper couldn't see it in time."

Joining Bradford on the All-Tournament Team for the Wildcats were Darr (the Tournament's Most Valuable Defensive Player), Celosmanovic, Crim, and Nick Tedrow. Grand Canyon's Chris Green, Vieira, Ciliento, and Cordero Young were also named to the team, along with Sonoma State's Ryan Hall and Cal State San Bernardino's Jose Godinez.

"I'm very proud of my guys. I love these guys. We'll be back," said Grand Canyon Head Coach Peter Draksin. "Our boys just got exhausted and we fell back on defense a little bit too much."