Menlo's first ever trip to the NAIA National Tournament ended in heartbreaking defeat after the Oaks went down 1-0 in double overtime of their opening round game against Southern Polytechnic. With just over three minutes until the match would be decided via penalty kicks, SPSU's Jumol Harewood found the back of the net to send the Runnin' Hornets into the Sweet 16.
Menlo was able to survive a swarm of Southern Polytechnic attacks as the Hornets were relentless in their chances. The combination of the aforementioned Harewood, junior forward Emeka Maduka, and senior mid-fielder Sean Grisham struck early and often. Opportunity after opportunity continued to go by the books as the Oaks defense employed a "bend but not break" mentality, with Menlo goal keeper Alex Palomarez slamming the door each and every time.
"Believe it or not, each chance built up our confidence," claimed the junior goal keeper and California Pacific Conference Player of the Year. "As we stopped them, my confidence kept going up and I saw that in the defense too."
The potential for the Oaks to break the scoreless tie seemed more likely after a second half SPSU red card spelled trouble for the Hornets. With 30 minutes left in the second frame, Southern Polytechnic's Diego Nicholson picked up his second yellow of the match, resulting in a red card that allowed Menlo to play a man up for the duration of the game.
Despite the man-advantage, the Oaks were still forced to play lock down defense as the Hornets were not about to pump the breaks.
Although Menlo dropped the intense battle to put a cap on their 2011 season, there is still a lot to be proud of. "From when we started in August, getting to the National Tournament was definitely a goal of ours," commented Palomarez. "We knew we had to put in a lot of work, but the team saw what we needed to get done and obviously everyone contributed. I am proud to accomplish what we set out for."
The Oaks finish the season with an overall mark of 13-4-1, while taking the California Pacific Conference title for the first time ever with their undefeated, 10-0 record.