Jensen’s goal stands up for Dowling's first title
Dowling celebrates their NCAA title. Trevor Brown Jr./NCAA Photos.
By Sean Smith
The NCAA News
Dowling College is taking a hard-earned national title back to Long Island, New York.
Morten Jensen’s 38th-minute goal gave Dowling enough to take a 1-0 win in the NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer Championship Saturday afternoon.
This time there would be no comeback for defending national champion Fort Lewis. The Skyhawks, 21-2-1, scored three times in the second half to fuel a comeback win against Lincoln Memorial in the semifinal Thursday.
But this time, No. 1 Dowling, which beat tournament host West Florida in a penalty-kick shootout in the semifinals Thursday, hung on grimly under an onslaught from the 2005 national champions.
Dowling players hacked three goal-bound Fort Lewis shots off the goal line in the final 20 minutes of the match. With the win, Dowling completed an unbeaten season and captured its first soccer championship.
Dowling, 22-0-2, cruised in the first half.
The Golden Lions carved open the Fort Lewis defense with short passes through midfield looking to set up Kpene and Jensen, who combined for five of Dowling’s seven first-half shots.
Kpene charged into the box with a chance in the 31st minute but was stopped by Skyhawks goalkeeper Tom Donley charging off his line to force a corner kick.
Then the Golden Lions took the lead seven minutes later with a defense-splitting combination between Jensen and Dowling’s leading scorer, Guy-Roland Kpene.
Jensen made an angled run into the penalty box, took a pass from Kpene on his chest and swiveled to chip over the advancing Skyhawks keeper Donley.
Dowling defender Lamine Traore then thumped a volley from the edge of the area on the ensuing corner kick, but the rising shot skimmed wide of Donley’s far post.
Fort Lewis came out charging in the second half, with Jeff Jennings forcing a corner kick.
The first chance occurred in the 68th minute on a free kick. Dowling keeper Billy Grady only tipped the inswinging cross, and Cunliffe pounced on the loose ball from eight yards out at the far post. Cunliffe fired low and Steven Schneider cleared the ball off the goal-line.
Kpene had a chance to seal the game in the 75th minute when he slipped in behind the Skyhawks defense at the edge of the penalty area. Donley charged and deflected Kpene’s shot just enough to allow two Skyhawks defenders to chase down the ball as it rolled toward the goal line.
But an amazing series of saves denied goals at opposite ends of the field. With 10 minutes left, Skyhawks freshman forward David Barden gathered a loose ball in the penalty box, but his shot was blocked as it hit a ruck of Dowling players.
Dowling countered and Kpene appeared to use his hand to nudge it past a defender and beat Donley, but Fort Lewis defender Ryan Kerr raced back to the near post and blocked the shot with his chest.
The Skyhawks threatened again when a shot skimmed toward the inside of Grady’s post, but defender Thomas Vaaland slid to hook the ball off the goal-line at the post.
Grady made another save on a Cunliffe effort with six minutes left, and a another shot crashed against the crossbar during a scramble in the Dowling box.
“In the last part of the game, they came at us with everything they had,” Grady said. “When I had to come off my line to knock a ball away, my teammates were right there to back me up. They did whatever it took, including clearing the ball off the line.”
Dowling 1, Fort Lewis 0
Dowling 1 0 - 1
Fort Lewis 0 0 - 0
First half: Dowling Morten Jensen, 37:59 (William Grady; Guy_Roland Kpene)
Shots: Dowling 11, Fort Lewis 15. Goalkeeper saves: Dowling (William Grady, 1, Team 2) 3, Fort Lewis (Tom Donley 3; Team 1) 4.