EVANS, Ga. — Saginaw Valley State’s 3-1 victory against Simon Fraser in the NCAA tournament semifinal came down to the play of one man.
And he didn’t score a single goal.
What Saginaw midfielder Bobby Short did, however, was set up each of the first two goals for the Cardinals with superb passes, earning him assists both on Zach Walega’s goal in the 15th minute and on Lachlan Savage’s insurance goal in the 52nd minute that seemed to finally break the spirit of the scrappy Simon Fraser squad. The productive pinpoint passing is something Short has made a habit of all season.
“Everybody knows I’m an unselfish player. It’s all about the good of the team,” Short said. “The goalie took away my angle a couple of times, so I said, ‘Why not? Why not give it up to someone else and let them have the glory?’ As long as we get the ‘W,’ I don’t care.”
The match featured a pair of teams who had grown used to getting those wins. Saginaw Valley came in sporting a 13-game winning streak and hadn’t lost since Sept. 30. Simon Fraser’s last lost came Sept. 15, going 14-0-1 in its previous 15 games.
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Championship: Lynn 3, Saginaw Valley 2
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Simon Fraser is located in Burnaby, British Columbia in Canada, and was hoping to become the first school from outside the United States to compete in a NCAA championship game.
Short, arguably more than anyone else, prevented that from happening.
“Bobby Short is one of the hardest-working players in the country, by far,” Saginaw Valley coach Cale Wasserman said. “Every day in practice, it’s 100 percent; every game, it’s 100 percent. He’s physical. And he’s not known to be the most technical player, but he makes such good decisions.
“On both of those goals, he got himself forward, drew the keeper out to the near post and made the simple pass backward with the layoff – and then Zach Walega had the world-class finish with the one touch to control it and the goal. The second one, same thing. [Short] drew the defender and the goalie across and passed it across to Lachlan. He doesn’t have  assists this year by accident. He works for every one of them and he makes good decisions. He’s helping on both sides of the ball, which is big-time for us.”
Walega also credited the 5-foot-8 Short for setting him up.
“It started with Bobby. He went up against a kid who had five or six inches on him, probably,” Walega said. “He fought hard with him for the ball and brought the ball in line, drew the defender to him. And then he put it on a platter for me.
“He did all the hard work. He’s done the hard work all year long. The guy is incredible for us,” Walega said.
The final Saginaw goal was scored by Zach Myers on an assist from Zack Cooney in the 56th minute, giving Saginaw a 3-0 lead. Less than four minutes later, Simon Fraser scored its only goal of the contest when Carlo Basso stole the ball and put it into the back of the net unassisted.
The loss ended Simon Fraser’s season with a 19-2-1 record, just shy of making the kind of NCAA history it wanted to make as the first team from outside the U.S. to advance this far in a NCAA tournament.
“To lose in this NCAA [semis] was incredibly frustrating,” Clan coach Alan Koch said. “But I give my guys credit. We challenged them at the half to step it up, and we created ample opportunities in the second half to win [Thursday’s] match. It’s just frustrating to see a quality season end the way it did.”
Saginaw improved to 18-2-4 with the victory. The Cardinals hope Short can continue his passing magic in Saturday’s championship match against Lynn, which beat Mercyhurst 4-1 in Thursday’s other semifinal.
Short said he’s fine with passing the ball to others to do the scoring.
“I don’t have too many goals, so maybe this is better for me,” Short said. “As long as the scoreboard says we’re winning, I don’t care.”