EVANS, Ga. -- For the second time in program history, Southern New Hampshire is the NCAA Division II men's soccer national champion. The Penmen used a pair of second-half goals then held off Carson-Newman for a 2-1 victory Saturday at Blanchard Woods Park. The win caps a 23-game unbeaten streak for Southern New Hampshire as they end the season 22-1-1, while the Eagles, which entered the NCAA championship unranked, see their season come to a close at 16-6-1.
It marks the second men's soccer national championship for Southern New Hampshire, with the other coming in 1989. The Penmen also reached the 2002 championship game. The 22 victories also ties the program record for most wins in a season, reached in both 1988 and 1989."Coming off of the last game, I was happy to have won, but we were definitely a little rattled in terms of our overall tempo and the way we like to play. We were definitely under pressure in the second half and you are coming away from the semifinal win kind of relieved to get through after absorbing the pressure. I was really looking forward to this moment to be able to show the country our brand of soccer and our ability," sixth-year Southern New Hampshire coach Marc Hubbard said, who won his 100th career game on Saturday.
"I'm so proud of how the guys played [Saturday]. They played a really nice brand of soccer, controlled tempo, created a lot of attacking chances. We played the way Southern New Hampshire wants to play. To win a game like this, playing the game the right way, it's just a true testament to all the hard work these guys have put into it. I give credit to Carson-Newman for battling, but I thought we were dominant and its really nice for us to come away with a national title playing good soccer," Hubbard added.
After a scoreless first half, Southern New Hampshire scored twice in a span of 12:35 late in the second half. Just past the 73-minute mark, senior Brian Francolini, dribbling down the right side, found a streaking Miguel Carneiro with a short touch pass. After taking a short touch to his left, Carneiro fired over a sliding Carson-Newman defender from 16 yards and snuck his shot inside the near left post past diving Eagle keeper Rumwald Le Guevel for his third goal of the season.
"I saw my teammate [Brian] Francolini, he was going up the line. I thought if I made that run, we have a good connection because he's also my roommate, so we like to pass the ball to each other," Carneiro said. "He cuts in and he sees me. I thought I would either take a quick touch and hit it, but I realized there was a defender coming, so I tried to take a big touch away from the defender and score. Luckily the ball went between his legs and I just could score."
Pierre Omanga made it 2-0 on a penalty kick with 4:23 remaining. Omanga, dribbling down the left side, deked a Carson-Newman defender, took a touch into the box, and was tripped up by Le Guevel trying to make a play on the loose ball. SNHU was awarded a penalty kick, which Omanga buried for his 21st goal of the season.
The game got chippy after that, with three players, two from Carson-Newman and one from Southern New Hampshire, sent off with 2:06 remaining following a scuffle on the far side. The Eagles ended SNHU's shutout bid with six seconds left when Ross Frame scored his 20th goal of the season with a 13-yard shot following a scramble in front of the Penmen goal.
Southern New Hampshire outshot Carson-Newman 17-10, including 9-3 in the first half, and had several quality chances in the opening 45 minutes. In the 16th minute,Mohamed Toufik sent a bicycle kick towards the goal that was cleared by a C-N defender. In the 22nd minute, Christian Rodriguez nearly snuck a left-footed shot inside the far left post, but his grounder rang off the post and back into play. Carson-Newman's best chance in the first half came just shy of the 30-minute mark when Nick Skoda tried to sneak a ball into the upper right corner but his attempt rang off the crossbar and out of play.
Dom DiMaggio made three saves for Southern New Hampshire, while Le Guevel turned aside five saves. The Penmen also held a 6-3 advantage in corner kicks on the afternoon.