The final goal of David Clifton’s college career was the sweetest. In the 89th minute of the Division II Men’s Soccer Championship game in Orange Beach, Alabama, December 2, the Franklin Pierce star beat Lincoln Memorial goalkeeper Brent Cole to propel the Ravens to the national championship, 1-0.
It was Clifton’s ninth tally of the tournament — a Division II record. Clifton, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding offensive player, also holds the Division II record for most career tournament goals with 10. He finished the 2007 season with 25 goals and three assists.
“It happened so fast,” Clifton said. “I just tried to lift it over and it went in. It’s nice to break records, but it’s most satisfying to win as a team and represent the university.”
Both schools had reached the national semifinals before, but neither had won the championship. Franklin Pierce’s women’s program has won five times.
“The one thing we stress in this program is that we can all be great players (but) you need personality and character,” said Franklin Pierce head coach Marco Koolman. “In those last two areas, these seniors have passed along that message to anyone who joined the program. I’m just so happy for these players, our university and alumni.”
Neither team was surprised that the championship match was a defensive struggle, since the semifinals produced just one goal in 218 minutes of play. Lincoln Memorial advanced to the title game with a goal in the 109th minute to beat Montevallo, 1-0, while Franklin Pierce and Midwestern State battled to a scoreless tie before the Ravens advanced on penalty kicks, 4-2.
Franklin Pierce senior goalkeeper James Thorpe needed just one save to earn his 12th shutout of the season and earn most outstanding defensive player honors for the championship. Thorpe, who broke the all-divisions record for most minutes played by a goalkeeper just six minutes into the match, finished his career with 49 shutouts.
Lincoln Memorial outshot Franklin Pierce, 12-7, but managed just one shot on cage. The Ravens put two shots on target, and finally converted on Clifton’s strike.
“In a game like this, it takes scoring one more goal than the opposition,” Koolman said. “It was very much an appropriate goal for David to score.”
Clifton and Thorpe were joined on the all-tournament team by senior backs Michael Vitulano and Bisharra Ettienne, and junior Frantz Francois. Lincoln Memorial’s Victor Souza, Claudio Rico, Leonardo de Barros and Nelson Pizarro also earned all-tournament accolades, as did Midwestern State’s Brian Martinez and Montevallo’s Melford James Jr.
Midwestern St 0 0 0 0 — 0
Franklin Pierce 0 0 0 0 — 0
Overtime: Franklin Pierce advanced on penalty kicks, 4-2.
Shots: Midwestern St. 13, Franklin Pierce 6. Goalkeeper saves: Midwestern St. 4 (Jeremy Turner), Franklin Pierce 6 (James Thorpe). Corner kicks: Midwestern St. 6, Franklin Pierce 4.
Montevallo 0 0 0 0 — 0
Lincoln Memorial 0 0 0 1 — 1
Overtime: LM – Guilherme Alves (Marcelo Galafassi), 108:13.
Shots: Montevallo 15, Lincoln Memorial 11. Goalkeeper saves: Montevallo 7 (Melford James Jr.), Lincoln Memorial 4 (Brent Cole 2, Team 2). Corner kicks: Montevallo 6, Lincoln Memorial 4.
Franklin Pierce 0 1 — 1
Lincoln Memorial 0 0 — 0
Second half: FP — David Clifton (Frantz Francois), 88:10.
Shots: Franklin Pierce 7, Lincoln Memorial 12. Goalkeeper saves: Franklin Pierce 1 (James Thorpe), Lincoln Memorial 1 (Brent Cole). Corner kicks: Franklin Pierce 1, Lincoln Memorial 4.