BETHANY – It was an all too familiar scene for the University of Science and Arts as they had to watch No. 20 Southern Nazarene and their fans celebrate an automatic berth into the national tournament with a 1-0 win Thursday night in the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament championship game.
Two seasons ago, one of USAO’s best teams in history had its season end with a loss at SNU in the regional title game. This one may have hurt more because of the lack of respect USAO had received through its run to the title game and its 13-3-2 record. In the latest top-25 national rankings the Drovers received only one vote.
This one may have hurt more because the winning goal was scored on a rebound in the 30th minute. Or this one may have hurt more because USAO outshot SNU 20-13 but couldn’t net the game-tying goal.
SNU collected the SAC tournament championship trophy and a ticket to the national tournament with a record of 13-4-1. USAO would have to settle for a runner-up trophy and its first loss in a SAC tournament title game in its last four tries.
Wesley Costa, John Gardner and Antonio Junior were USAO’s selection to the SAC all-tournament team, and the Drovers finish the season as one of the best teams, statistically, in the country.
USAO ranks seventh nationally, and the best of any SAC school, in goals scored with 60. This year’s team falls just two goals shy of the school record set by the 2006 squad in two fewer games. This year’s team also set a new school record by only allowing 13 goals against all season. That shattered the 2006 record of 16 goals allowed.
The Drovers ranked third nationally with 23 shots per game, second with 12.6 shots on goal per game, 11th with 0.72 goals allowed per game and 11th with eight shutouts. Only Rogers State managed to finish ahead of USAO of these national stats. RSU had 12 shutouts this season.