SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2008
Men’s soccer stuns No. 1 seed Campbell to win A-Sun Championship
Senior Ramak Niakan Safi was named Tournament MVP after scoring two goals, including the game-winner, for JU
Senior Ramak Niakan Safi was named Tournament MVP after scoring two goals, including the game-winner, for JU
Trailing 3-1 in the second half, the JU men’s soccer team scored three unanswered goals to down No. 1 seed Campbell, 4-3, to win the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship in Buies Creek, N.C. on Saturday afternoon.

The Dolphins (11-8-1) redeemed last season’s loss to the Camels (14-6) in the championship match to earn their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1998. They also downed the Camels for the first time since 2002 and ended their 16-game conference winning streak.

The Dolphins rallied to calm the title by outshooting the Camels in the second half, 10-0, and holding their opponent to three shots the entire match.

“I’m at a loss for words,” said JU head coach Mike Johnson. “I’m so proud of the guys because they fought their way to this championship. We could have easily given up at halftime, but our guys found a way to win.

“Our goal this season was to redeem ourselves from last year’s loss and we definitely achieved it. I give credit to the Campbell because they were a very talented and well-coached team. We will enjoy this win this weekend and then starting working for our opponent in the NCAA Tournament.”

Senior midfielder Ramak Niakan Safi scored two goals, including the game-winning goal, to earn Tournament MVP and all-tournament team accolades. In addition to Niakan Safi, freshman midfielder Kristian Lassen earned all-tournament team honors after tying the Lipscomb and Campbell matches for JU, while junior midfielder Jonathan Jackson earned all-tournament recognition with a team-high three assists for the Dolphins.

Sophomore forward Tony Taylor, senior defender Philipp Meyner and junior defender Eddie Munnelly each were named to the all-tournament team to round out the Dolphins.

Niakan Safi gave the Dolphins a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute of the match in the top of the box from an assist by senior forward Sebastian Lindholm.

After the JU goal, Campbell exploded with scored three goals on three shots to take a 3-1 advantaged.

In the 18th minute, Josue Soto scored on a penalty kick to even the match for the Camels. He delivered a pass to Richard Jata, who flicked it in the back of the goal to give the Camels a one goal lead in the 32nd-minute.

Jata scored again less than nine minutes later from 35-yard out to end Campbell scoring in the first half.

In the second half, Taylor cut the JU deficit to a goal by scoring in the 57th minute on assist by sophomore midfielder Nedim Hrustic.

The Dolphins tied the match in the 75th minute when Lassen scored his third goal of the tournament in the right of the box on combined assists by Lindholm and Jackson.

With less than a two minutes remaining, Niakan Safi scored on a counter attack from a pass by Taylor to give JU the conference title.

The seven goals scored represented the highest scoring title game in the conference since Centenary defeated Georgia State by the 4-3 margin, in overtime. The only A-Sun final decided in regulation to feature more goals came back in 1979 when Hardin-Simmons blanked Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe), 9-0.

The Dolphins will find out what regional they are heading to in the NCAA Tournament with the live selection show on ESPNEWS on Monday at 5:30 p.m. The first round of the NCAA Tournament is set to start on Friday, Nov. 21.