Dec. 4, 2010


By Ronnie Ramos

LOUISVILLE, Ky. − Amid steady snow showers, Northern Kentucky rallied Saturday to beat Rollins, 3-2, to claim its first mens national championship in any sport.

Northern Kentucky scored two first-half goals; withstood a furious second-half rally from Rollins that tied the game; got a go-ahead, snow-aided goal; and then fended off a final Rollins onslaught.

"It wasn't pretty,” said Northern Kentucky Coach John Basalyga. "Typical Northern Kentucky game, go ahead give up two goals and figure out a way to score a game winner. Weve been doing that all year long.

"I'd rather win ugly than lose good.”

The snow delayed the start of the game for an hour and affected play throughout the game. Rollins, a central Florida school, struggled with the snow-covered field in the first half.

"We did the best we possibly could in difficult conditions,” said Rollins coach Keith Buckley. The problem is we dont have too much snow in Florida. We just didnt know how to play, and we tried to play a normal way and it wasnt working.”

Northern Kentucky took control of the game from the beginning, controlling the ball and keeping it at Rollins end of the field.

The Norse scored first on a well-executed free kick. Paul Andrews delivered a low kick from 28 yards out that Jack Little headed over the outstretched arms of Rollins goalie Keneil Baker.

Neither side could establish much after that goal, as the ball spent most of the time near midfield.

Northern Kentucky struck again before halftime as Jordan Grant got a foot on the ball after a scramble in front of the net after an initial save by Baker.

The Norse got off to the excellent start without much involvement from their star forward, Steven Beattie. The two-time Division II national player of the year scored 26 goals in 25 games this year but was not really a factor. Hes a great player,” Buckley said, but when its like this you just dont have time with the ball. His skills were nullified by the conditions.”

Beattie acknowledged the conditions hampered him. I couldnt seem to find my touch,” he said. As an Irishman, Im not used to the snow. Both teams have to play in it, so that is no excuse.”

The start of the second half, delayed for about five minutes so the ground crew could get the snow off the field, saw the start of an onslaught by Rollins. They came out absolutely flying in the second half,” Beattie said of the Tars. For 10 minutes we didnt look like anybody.”

The Tars scored twice on corner kicks in the first seven minutes of the second half. Adam New headed the first corner kick, sent in by Kevin Boone, down past the diving Norse goalie Michael Lavric in the third minute. I caught it perfectly,” New said. Its lucky because I headed it down toward the ground and obviously the conditions again, maybe messed up their goalie as well.”

Four minutes later, Boone sent in another corner kick that the Norse tried to clear. But the clearing attempt was intercepted by Jack Clifford, who headed into the back right end of the net.

I think weve been there so many times this year,” Basalyga said. The one thing thats good about this team is that they have a lot of composure. You know, giving up the two goals, as long as we survived the next 10 minutes without giving up another one, things would settle down and I thought things would happen. Then we got a break.”

Michael Holder headed a soft ball toward Baker, who fumbled the ball and had it slip through his hands and into the goal. I just tried to get contact and get it on goal and the goalie bobbled it,” Holder said. I just knew it was good enough to contest him and I knew the ground was wet so I tried to keep it as low as possible and skipped off his hand and in. Its just the way the ball bounces sometimes.”

Rollins Buckley said Baker couldnt do much in those conditions. Thats just part of the game,” Buckley said. Keneils a fantastic keeper. These things happen.”

Rollins fought hard to come back and almost scored with 16 minutes left. The Tars had two point-blank shots rejected by Lavric. A little more than three minutes later, New got a long pass and broke free behind the Norse defense. Lavric got there just in time to slide and tackle the ball away. Those two saves were the game winner, period,” Basalyga said.

Rollins was forced to play the last five minutes a man down because Jack Clifford received a second yellow card when Michael Holder had a breakaway and Clifford pulled him down from behind. Rollins never could mount an offensive attack after that.