Simon Fraser University’s NCAA postseason run came to an end in Georgia this afternoon as they went down 3-1 to Michigan’s Saginaw Valley Cardinals.
The Cardinals pace proved problematic to the Clan’s defence the whole game, and with the Clan having to chase the game after going a goal down, they were caught on a couple of quick breakaways, which proved vital.
Although they dominated the second half and pulled themselves back in to the game, the damage was done early and the Clan’s 2012 season is over.
Saginaw Valley looked the more dangerous side from the off and top scorer Zach Myers had two great chances to add to his tally just two minutes in, but Clan keeper JD Blakley produced a couple of excellent point blank saves.
The Michigan side were having early success with long balls over the top and through balls, with a lively Myers looking to be a constant threat.
The Cardinals pressure got its reward in the 15th minute when Robert Short, who leads the team in assists, cut the ball back from the byeline for Zach Walega to bury high into the net from just inside the box.
The goal kickstarted the Clan and they came close to equalising six minutes later when Carlo Basso rose well to get on the end of a Chris Bargholz cross, but crashed his header off the left hand post and Cardinals keeper Jason Wise recovered.
SFU had now settled and were playing the better football, but failing to create any clear cut goalscoring opportunities.
With seven minutes remaining, Colin Jacques found himself in a good position in the box but fired wide, in what was to be the last real chance of the half.
SFU came out for the second half all guns blazing, controlling possession.
Alex Rowley had a shot turned round the post for a corner in the 49th minute as the Clan put the pressure on.
Three minutes later though they found themselves caught on a quick breakaway and were two down when Short squared the ball for Lachlan Savage to fire home from six yards out.
SFU had to go for it now, but they were caught at the back again by Saginaw Valley’s pace and Myers finally got his name on the scoresheet, taking his time to pick his spot and curl home the third in the 56th minute.
Hitting back against a team who had recorded 13 clean sheets in 23 games this season was always going to be a huge ask, but the Clan got themselves back into the game though three minutes later when Carlo Basso’s tenacity won the ball back in the box and he stroked the ball high into the net with aplomb.
SFU nearly pulled a second back in the 69th minute.
A brilliant through ball slipped Ryan Dhillon through and he did well to evade a lunging last ditch challenge to set himself free on goal but he was unable to curl the ball around a stretching Wise, who did well to parry the danger away.
It was now wave after wave of Clan attacks and Dhillon and Michael Winter had shots blocked, as the Cardinals proved what a great team they are defensively.
Saginaw Valley nearly caught SFU again for a fourth with twelve minutes remaining but Jamaican international Quante Abbott Hill Smith produced a great saving tackle to take the ball off the foot of Walega.
SFU kept pushing to the end and Justin Wallace had a shot blocked with five minutes remaining, after some great work on the byeline by Dhillon.
The Clan have made a habit of scoring late goals this year, but they were unable to add to that tally in the closing minutes.
The disappointment at the final whistle was clear, but it’s been a great season for the guys and they have a lot to be proud of and look forward to in the future with what is a young team.
Saginaw Valley now move into Saturday’s final to take on Lynn for the NCAA Division 2 National Championship.