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Virginia Beach Bound; Men's & Women's Soccer Heading to 2019 USCAA National Championships

Virginia Beach Bound; Men's & Women's Soccer Heading to 2019 USCAA National Championships

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) men's and women's soccer programs gathered in Hamilton Arena today to watch the 2019 USCAA Nationals Bid Show. Both programs earned #4 seed bids and will be heading to Virginia Beach, Virginia, to compete for National Championships!

Men's soccer notched the program's first-ever trip to USCAA Nationals while the women's soccer has not seen a post-season appearance since 2010.

Women's Soccer - Season Review | 7-6-1

After finishing with only one win last season, the women's team saw a six-game swing in the win/loss column to finish above .500 for the first time in nine years. After dropping their first two matches of the season, including a 5-0 loss at Rose-Hulman, it looked as if the team was headed for another tough season. With a few big wins in September (3-0 over MacMurray College, 5-0 over Andrews University, 8-1 over Welch College) helped SMWC find its confidence. The month was highlighted by a 1-0 double-overtime victory against Principia College when Lanee Andrew scored the game-winner with just 9.7 seconds remaining.

A 1-1 draw against Oakland City and two canceled matches cut short what could have been an even more impressive season for SMWC, nevertheless, women's soccer is headed to Nationals and head coach Craig Hendry hopes they both celebrate the opportunity and stay focused. "The team must enjoy the moment, but then these are the biggest games of their soccer careers, so we have to make the most of this opportunity and prepare properly."

Hendry added he believes it is a great reward for a hard-working team, "It's been a long time since women's soccer has been to the tournament. No-one among our current group has experienced this before. It means a great deal to the program and is a fitting reward for the huge amount of energy they've put into training and games this season."

Melisa Spognardi believes this helps the program take its next step, "I believe this is a big achievement and a huge step forward for the women's soccer program. It speaks for all of our hard work from the beginning of the season indicating that we are capable of doing even more. Going to Nationals is a milestone for our team and a dream come true! It means pride not just for ourselves but for our college as well and we look forward to competing at Nationals representing the Pomeroy's women's soccer team. 

Spognardi is up for the challenge and is excited to see the competition, "Besides bringing home the National Championship Title... although it will be challenging, I look forward to this amazing experience alongside my teammates. I've been playing soccer for many years and this is one moment that I am feeling most excited for. Every girl on this team is a star and playing at Nationals with them will be pretty special to me."

She feels, "The most important aspect of competing is to have the right mindset. As always, our team's mindset is to stay focused on our goals and to work hard in training to ensure that we come out at the top of our game to bring home a National Championship title."

Freshman Lanee Andrew understands this is the accomplishment of the team's hard work, "It means a lot to the team because it makes all the hard work and sacrifices worth it. The hours of training we put in over the last several months paid off!!"

Andrew has a few personal things she is excited to experience as well, "I'm most excited about getting to continue our season and the chance to bring home a title for SMWC. Playing at the college level is an amazing experience and I would love to see our season continue. Our mindset is that our hard work is paying off. We can go compete and be successful like we have all throughout the season."

Statistical Leaders

  • Goals: Alexis Pflum | 7
  • Assists: Carra Matherly | 4
  • Saves: Megan Benefiel | 92
  • Shots on Goal: Lanee Andrew | 20
  • SOG% (min. 10): Melissa Spognardi | .684

Men's Soccer - Season Review | 10-4-1

Despite last season being the first in program history, the team and head coach Abe Tizaf were less than satisfied with a 6-7-0 record. With the addition of midfielders Omar Abdallah Nabilsi and Edson Alvarado, the Pomeroys offense saw drastic improvements. The team started the season with a six-game win streak, highlighted by an overwhelming 9-0 victory over Great Lakes Christian College on September 10th. During their streak, the team outscored their opponents 26-1. Their season started to get a little rocky as they dropped 3 out of 4 to open October, but each loss was well within reach.

As they look to prepare for Nationals, head coach Abe Tizaf reflects on the difficulty of a winning season and why pushing them can yield results, "I just want to thank them all for everything. I [have to]  say that I was very hard on them this season, and I openly acknowledge it, but look how far we made and where we are now, top-six team nationally, this in itself is a tremendous achievement. Just like a parent, I do want the best for them, which explains why I am hard on them sometimes, but I do it because I want to see them succeed both academically and athletically. I see all of them as my own kids now."

Head coach Abe Tizaf believes this is the right direction for the program, "To me honestly, I see it as a new tree we just planted, we are now seeing the leaves come out and we are continuing to nurture it to bring out its best fruits. And I have to say that it's very impressive to see what the players have accomplished these past two years. Their hard work shows, and it also proves that we are going in the right direction following the strategic plan we set on day one."

Tizaf added, "I have to say this year was very tough, it was mentally exhausting too, we had to recruit, develop, and compete at the same time, this was also much more challenging for our new freshmen athletes. That said, I strongly believe that they deserve it because of all the hard work they put into it."

Leading scorer Omar Abdallah Nabilsi is excited about the team, "I can't put it into words how proud I am of these guys. For a second-year program, this is no easy accomplishment and we've worked hard to get to this position, but we're not done yet. We're not going to nationals just to participate; we're going to Virginia Beach to accomplish our ultimate goal and that's to win the tournament. [I] and all the guys can't wait to start this new journey."

Captain Ismael Fletes knows this was earned and not given, "First of all, I think it's a testament to all of the hard work that's been put in since the start of the season. It shows what an incredible job the coaching staff has done in order for us to be in this position. Secondly, I think it signifies that we are capable of doing something special within the competition (Nationals)."

Fletes is most excited about the experience, "I think the biggest thing is the experience itself. I'm excited to captain this team in the competition and hopefully make something special happen.

He added the team is focused, "We are extremely focused on our preparation and know the importance of it. The team is in a motivated mindset and are looking forward to the start of the competition.

Statistical Leaders

  • Goals: Omar Abdallah Nabilsi | 21
  • Assists: Omar Abdallah Nabilsi | 7
  • Saves: Keaton Krischak | 50
  • Shots on Goal: Omar Abdallah Nabilsi | 51
  • SOG% (min. 10): Edson Alvarado | .706

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