First NCAA Win Caps Signature Day for OSU

November 20, 2014

Corvallis, Ore. – The Oregon State men’s soccer team capped a signature day in the program’s 27-year history on Thursday with a 1-0 victory over Denver in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Their first-ever NCAA win advanced the Beavers (12-7-1) into the round of 32, where they will face 12th-seeded Creighton (14-3-2). Game time is set for 10:30 a.m. PT Sunday at Morrison Stadium in Omaha.

A Lorenz Field crowd of 953 was on its feet for the final minute as the Beavers completed Thursday’s hat trick of major accomplishments. Earlier in the day, senior forward Khiry Shelton was named Pacific-12 Conference Player of the Year, and forward Timmy Mueller was named the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Year.

Those honors would have felt hollow indeed, however, without a positive result on the field. And another talented freshman, forward Jordan Jones, made sure of that by scoring the game’s only goal at 16:32.

Jones completed a nifty three-way combination with Shelton and freshman midfielder Graham Smith by burying a hard shot into the lower left-hand corner. Smith’s entry pass from the left side to Shelton started the combination; Shelton then dished off to Jones, who blasted the ball past DU keeper Nick Gardner for his eighth goal of the season.

“Obviously, it was a great feeling to put one in early,” Jones said. “Usually when we score we build off that energy and try to keep it going.

“I’m proud of my teammates and it’s a blessing to be out here. We’re not going to give up and we showed it tonight.”

There were some anxious moments the rest of the way, as Denver had 10 corner kicks and several excellent chances. But OSU senior keeper Matt Bersano and the Beavers barred the door over the final 73 minutes to eliminate the Pioneers (11-8-1), the Summit League champions.

 

“In tournament play you have to survive and advance and that’s what we did tonight,” said OSU coach Steve Simmons.

“I though the defending was pretty resilient after we took that goal. I’ll give a lot of credit to Denver, I thought they were good tonight, I really did. You can see why they’re in the tournament.

“Like I said before, you can’t fake your way into the tournament and [Denver] should be congratulated on a very good season. I’m proud of our guys and now it’s on to the next step.”

It was the second shutout victory for Bersano and the Beavers, who won 2 of 3 road games against Top-10 conference opposition in the final two weekends of the regular season to clinch their first NCAA berth since 2003.  OSU also prevailed 2-0 at Washington this past Sunday to wrap up an at-large spot in the 48-team, single-elimination tourney.

Bersano had four saves to stave off the Pioneers, who had won 5 of 6 before Thursday. He also got a big lift from redshirt freshman defender Jalen Markey, who cleared a ball off the line late in the first half to preserve the narrow lead.

“We feel great,” Bersano said after notching his fifth clean sheet of the season and the 13th of his career. “It’s a quick turnaround and this win is a weight off our shoulders in terms of the history of the program, just like making the tournament.

“Now we just have to keep taking it off, we have no pressure any more. We’re here to play, we’re here to win, and I don’t mind who we play next, it doesn’t matter.”

Mueller nearly scored an insurance goal with just under a minute to play but Gardner turned away his blistering point-blank shot to keep the Pioneers alive for another 45 seconds. However, a last-ditch free kick into the box from midfield was turned safely away with about eight seconds to play and the Beavers and their fans began celebrating the historic moment as the fog settled over Lorenz Field.

“I’ll tell you, the boys love playing at Lorenz,” Simmons said. “The crowd was able to witness history and it was fantastic.

“It was good that the guys could deliver a result and advance because it’s been a long time. I’m so proud of them.”

For more information on the Oregon State men’s soccer team, follow the club’s official Twitter account at Twitter.com/OSUBeavers_MSOC.

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