Menlo College Oaks Vs. Southern Polytechnic Running Hornets
Saturday, November 19th, NueSoft Technologies Field, Marietta, Georgia
With only a day away and their last practice behind them, the Oaks prepare for the 2011 NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship Opening Round, set for tomorrow at 10:00am PT against Southern Polytechnic State University. Here in Marietta, Georgia, the feeling is confidence after the team hit NueSoft Technologies Field earlier today for a final practice, following their arrival in Atlanta late last night.
"Today's practice went really well," commented Menlo goal keeper and California Pacific Conference Player of the Year Alex Palomarez. "There was a lot of intensity out there and it should show in tomorrow's game. Everyone looks ready."
The task of leaving Georgia with a playoff win under their belt will be a daunting, but doable, one for the Oaks, as Southern Polytechnic brings a whole host of experience into the Opening Round tilt. The Running Hornets come in with an overall record of 15-2-2 and are currently ranked 6th in the nation. They have reached the National Tournament the last two seasons, taking home Opening Round victories in each of the two years. In addition, Southern Polytechnic plays in the formidable Southern States Athletic Conference that saw five teams nationally ranked at season's end.
Even with the wealth of experience and playoff tested background, Menlo shows no signs of being intimated even the least bit…and with good reason. The Oaks are on a hot streak unlike any other as they enter the playoff battle. Menlo ran the table to a perfect 10-0 Cal PAC mark, including knocking off a dominant Holy Names squad that had won the title for the last five seasons. And as a side note, HNU took out Southern Polytechnic in last year's National Tournament Sweet Sixteen Round. Menlo has also not been defeated since September 10th, a string of 12 straight matches without a loss.
"The team looks stronger than ever," remarked All-Conference, senior forward Matheus Barbosa. "We look confident for tomorrow, there's not much more to be said. If we concentrate for this battle and do what we do, the win will come naturally."
Barbosa along with aforementioned Alex Palomarez are two of the Oaks six All-Conference award winners, with sophomore Eric Tilbury, juniors Alex Vukic and Eric Angell, and senior Sam Zipperstein being the other four.
As far as Southern Polytechnic is concerned, it all starts with senior forward Jumol Harewood. In the 2011 campaign, Harewood ranked 35th in the nation with a team leading 14 goals and sits at 6th in the country with 2.95 shots on goal per game. In the Running Rebels run at clinching their first ever SSAC Conference Tournament Championship, Harewood received Tournament MVP honors with three scores in three games to propel SPSU to victory. His 6'3" size makes him a force to be reckoned with, but to reiterate, Menlo refuses to back down.
"If we play with our style that has guided us up to his point we will be fine," claimed freshman defender Giuseppe Frattaroli, who will likely have more than a say in stopping Harewood. "We have to keep playing with confidence and not let any stats get in the way."
The battle begins at 1:00pm ET, 10:00am PT.
You can follow all the action, as the Menlo College Sports Network has made the trek to Marietta, Georgia to bring you this first ever playoff contest in the program's history. The voice of the Oaks, Dylan Vazzano, will be on the call.