There were no surprises in the NCAA Division II men's semifinal between Midwestern State and Rollins College Thursday night at Frazier Stadium.
Two restarts and two goals. That equaled a 2-1 result for the Tars who advanced to the national championship contest Saturday afternoon against Northern Kentucky, a 4-1 winner over Dowling (N.Y.) in the other semifinal. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. (Central Time)
"What we had to do was nullify their midfield and take advantage of set pieces," Rollins coach Keith Buckley said.
The first goal came off of the head of Jack Clifford in the 30th minute to give Rollins a 1-0 lead.
"The first goal, I just found the near post," Clifford said. "We have a little system we switch off of and this time I went to the near post. It was a low ball and it just hit me in the head and I happened to knock it in."
Rollins dominated the run of play throughout much of the opening 55 minutes with the exception of the final two minutes of the opening half when senior midfielder Paulo Teixeira fired a low shot off of the post.
MSU would strike for the equalizer when Nathan Fitzgerald slipped behind the defense on a well struck cross from Sam Broadbent in the 57th minute.
"This year we've been good at getting wide, hooking it and getting looks in the box," Fitzgerald said. "I know Paulo was behind me and we were both open."
The goal appeared to swing momentum in Midwestern's direction and the Mustangs had another great opportunity in the 63rd minute.
MSU midfielder Bryce Taylor worked the ball down the left wing and beat the Rollins defense to the post, but his pass was deflected to Fitzgerald who blasted a shot off of center back Thomas Biddinger's lower arm.
The ensuing Rollins counter attack resulted in a yet another quality restart for the Tars and another goal for Clifford who was left unmarked on the far post.
"(Rollins) was very strong in the air and they did very well winning balls," MSU coach Doug Elder said. "We talked about going in how they were going to be good on restarts, free kicks and corner kicks. Both goals came off of restarts. I was a little upset at the men that were marking those men that scored, but its too little, too late and I don't want to take away from a great season, but I'm disappointed we gave up two restart goals."
The loss ended Midwestern State's run for a unbeaten season and its quest for the school's first national championship.
"We played 21 games without a loss, so we are not used to losing," Elder said. "It is not easy to swallow. Being in the Final Four before and not getting it done, it is very disappointing. That's what we play for. A lot of people play for conference championships, region championships, we wanted this year to play for a national championship.
"But you can't take away this from the kids. You play 22 games and only lose one. These guys know, we wouldn't have minded losing two or three games early in the year to get this one back."