Junior goalkeeper Alex Stout finished with four saves as MVNU notched its 14th shutout of the season to break the previous school record of 13 shutouts set in 1998.
History-making Cougars advance to NAIA soccer semifinals
Friday, December 5, 2008
Fresno, California
The No. 14 seed Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) men's soccer team continued to make its first-ever appearance in the NAIA National Championship a memorable one. The Cougars scored an early goal and hung on to post a 1-0 victory over No. 11 seed Westmont (California) College in the quarterfinals of the 50th annual NAIA National Championship on Wednesday evening, December 3, at Ramirez Field on the campus of Fresno Pacific (California) University.

MVNU (18-3-2), which was ranked No. 7 in the final NAIA poll of the year, wasted no time at all in taking the lead when sophomore midfielder Cody Snouffer took a pass from senior forward Adam Worrall and scored what would prove to be the only goal of the match just 2:24 in to put the Cougars on top 1-0. The goal was Snouffer's fourth of the season, while Worrall registered his team-leading 10th assist and continued his streak of scoring or assisting on all six of the team's postseason goals with four goals and two assists.

The Warriors (12-7-2), who were making their 16th NAIA National Championship appearance and boast one NAIA national title, posted an 8-4 advantage in total shots in the first half, but shots on goal were even between the two teams at 2-2.

Scoring chances were even more limited in the second half with Westmont, which was ranked No. 24 in the final poll, holding a slim 5-4 edge in total shots. The Warriors battled all the way until the closing seconds when MVNU cleared a final corner kick opportunity with 20 seconds remaining and then just maintained possession to run out the clock as the Cougars improved to 6-1-1 against Top 25 teams this year.

Junior goalkeeper Alex Stout finished with four saves as MVNU notched its 14th shutout of the season to break the previous school record of 13 shutouts set in 1998 when the Cougars went 19-8-0. The shutout was also the school-record 26th of Stout's career. Meanwhile, Justin Etherton posted four saves for Westmont, which was shut out for just the fourth time all season.

"It is really hard to describe exactly what this team has accomplished this year," said MVNU coach Paul Furey. "Not only to win three matches at the national tournament, but to not allow a goal in our first appearance is almost unheard of. Teams that make their first appearance are usually the teams that are just glad to be there and take their first match on the chin and go home. However, this team is just resilient and has a heart that believes that we can win it all. It has been a great ride and it just keeps on getting more amazing."
The loss ended a remarkable run for the Warriors, who had their seven-match winning streak snapped. Westmont was able to persevere through a tragic wildfire that swept through campus right before the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament championship match in mid-November. The fire destroyed nine campus buildings, 50 dorm rooms, and 15 faculty homes. Three team members had their housing directly affected, and head coach Dave Wolf and his family lost their home completely. The GSAC championship match was delayed two days before Westmont knocked off defending NAIA national champion Azusa Pacific (Calif.) University 2-0 on their home field to advance to the NAIA National Championship with the final berth.

The quarterfinal victory moves the Cougars into the NAIA National Championship semifinals on Friday at 7:30 p.m. PST as they become the first MVNU team in school history in any sport to advance that far at an NAIA National Championship. The Cougars will face a familiar foe in their semifinal match as MVNU will square off with No. 2 seed University of Rio Grande (18-3-1). The Cougars are 1-0-1 against the Red Storm this season with a scoreless double overtime draw in the regular season and a 1-0 victory in the semifinals of the American Mideast Conference Tournament. Rio Grande, which is making its eighth NAIA National Championship appearance and has one NAIA national title to its credit, advanced to the semifinals with a 4-0 victory over previously unbeaten No. 10 seed University of Maine-Fort Kent (21-1-2) in the quarterfinals.

"We're just going to sit back tonight and enjoy this one and then tomorrow we are going to try and figure out a way to shutdown Rio Grande a third time, which is tough enough to do once in a season," said Furey. What a great platform to have two AMC schools in the final four. I am tremendously thrilled for our guys and so thankful for the great support back in Mount Vernon. We hope that we are making everyone proud back there as we continue to go on here in Fresno."

The first semifinal match on Friday at 5:00 p.m. PST will pit No. 1 seed Oklahoma City University (20-2-1) against unseeded Bethel (Tennessee) College (15-5-2). Oklahoma City advanced with a 2-1 double overtime victory over No. 8 seed Hastings (Nebraska) College on an own goal in the 109th minute. Meanwhile, Bethel blanked unseeded University of Mobile (Alabama) 3-0 in their quarterfinal match. The two semifinal winners will then advance to the national championship match on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. PST.

12/7 Update: Mount Vernon's historic run came to an end with a close 1-0 loss to Rio Grande.

More (Quarterfinals): Cougars upset No. 3 Lindsey Wilson despite being outshot 29-6.
--MVNU Sports Information
 
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