Saginaw Valley State University’s men’s soccer team has taken drama to a new level.
In their past three postseason matches, the Cardinals have won in a penalty-kick shootout, in overtime and in double overtime.
“It’s been exciting, to say the least,” said Cary-Grove graduate Taylor Clarke, a junior defender for the NCAA Division II school in University Center, Mich. “It’s been stressful, too.”
Clarke and his SVSU teammates washed their stress away Sunday with a 1-0 victory against Northeastern (Okla.) State University to advance to the first NCAA Final Four in school history.
“I don’t think any of us saw this coming,” said Clarke, who has started every game this season. “We’ve gotten a lot of recognition on campus. We have people coming up to us, congratulating us.”
The Cardinals, ranked No. 12 in the nation, will travel to Evans, Ga., this week for a national semifinal match against Simon Fraser University on Thursday. The semifinal winners will face off Dec. 1 for the national title.
“Our head coach (Cale Wassermann) said since he got here during my freshman year that we were going to focus on graduation and winning a national championship,” Clarke said. “He’s instilled that in us since he’s been here.”
Clarke, who has started 54 matches in his career, has played a big role in the team’s success.
SVSU (17-2-4) has suffocated opposing offenses all season, with a 0.65 goals-against average and 13 shutouts. In late October and early November, the Cardinals posted seven consecutive shutout wins.
Clarke said the team’s success has been driven by everyone on the field taken defense seriously.
“We’ve all been solid,” he said. “A big thing for us is communication. The guys are confident, and we know what we’re capable of.”
Clarke, who serves as a team captain, said his focus this season has been on “leadership and communication. It’s helped us a lot, whether it’s on the field or off the field.”
While the team had a joyful flight home from Oklahoma last weekend, Clarke said the team has been focused on the Final Four since returning to campus.
“We don’t want to stop and smell the roses too much,” he said. “One nice thing about this team is we know what we’ve done. But we’ve also been able to focus on what’s next.”
Making Viterbo go: Huntley grad Bre Burry and McHenry West’s Molly Machometa both earned first-team All-Midwest Collegiate Conference honors this fall at Viterbo in women’s soccer.
Machometa, a freshman forward, also was named the MCC Newcomer of the Year after leading the NAIA with 3.94 points a game and ranked second in the nation with 31 goals. She also had nine assists on the season.
A sophomore midfielder, Burry was part of an offense that ranked sixth nationally with 3.79 goals a game. Burry had three goals and four assists this season. The V-Hawks (15-3-1) ended their season Nov. 17 in a 2-1 loss to No. 12 Olivet Nazarene in a first-round NAIA tournament match.
Leatherneck success: D-I Western Illinois’ women’s soccer team posted its best record since 2007 this fall with a first-year coaching staff that included Cary-Grove graduate and former Northern Illinois standout Kesley Passaglia.
Serving as an assistant to head coach Ted Flogaites, Passaglia helped guide WIU to a 13-6 record and a berth in the Summit League postseason tournament after a third-place regular-season finish (5-3). Western lost a 1-0 decision to eventual champion Oakland in the Summit tournament.
Last season, Western finished 7-12, including a 1-8 in conference.
Concordia standout: Crystal Lake Central grad Scott Illich earned second-team All-Northern Athletics Conference football honors this fall at D-III Concordia University Chicago.
Illich, the team’s starting right offensive tackle, helped the Cougars to a 10-0 regular season as part of an offense that averaged 38.8 points and 485.7 yards a game. Concordia ranks 14th nationally in yards a game and 20th in scoring offense.
In a first-round D-III playoff game last weekend, Concordia lost a 24-23 decision to Bethel.
Humm helps Oakland: Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Humm ranked second for D-I Oakland University’s women’s volleyball team in kills (329) and digs (418) while helping the Golden Grizzlies to a 16-13 record.
Humm, a Prairie Ridge grad, had 14 kills and 12 digs last week in a 3-2 Summit League Tournament semifinal loss to eventual champion IPFW. Humm had a season-best 20 kills Sept. 1 against Iowa.
Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at [ mailto:BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com ]BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.