Colorado Mesa's Stevie Palma tallied the lone goal in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs Sunday to lift the Mavericks to a 1-0 win over Midwestern State at Walker Field.
CMU (16-3-2) moves on to face St. Edward's (Texas) for the South Central Region title Thursday at Interbay Stadium on the Seattle Pacific campus. The winner moves on to face the victor between SPU and California State, Los Angeles Saturday in the national quarterfinal round also in Seattle.
"We've won some games we shouldn't have in the past, but we played in front of a good crowd and put on a good show," MSU coach Doug Elder said. "We didn't put a lot of shots on goal, but we produced some great chances. They will have their hands full with St. Edward's."
Midwestern State closes its 16th consecutive 10-win season with a 13-4-2 mark. The Mustangs advanced to the postseason for the 10th time since 2002 and for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
"I told the guys I was happy with the way we handled adversity this season. We thought we would be really deep this year and not having that depth hurt us a bit," Elder said. "We're very disappointed in the result, but our guys showed up and we just didn't get the result."
But it wasn't meant to be for MSU, who suffered its only shutout of the season against the Mavericks. It was the Mustangs' first blanking since battling Eastern New Mexico to a scoreless draw on Nov. 1, 2013.
"They are leading the RMAC in defense for a reason," Elder said. "They got the result and that's what matters. You don't advance on how you possessed or passed the ball, but it goes on the result."
Both sides produced quality chances, but Colorado Mesa managed the lone finish on a sunny, cold day with the temperature hovering around the freezing mark.
CMU senior Stan Schrock sent in a long through ball to Palma, who ran on to the ball and flicked over charging MSU goalkeeper Nick Petolick to provide the difference in the match in the 18th minute.
The Mustangs appeared to have the equalizer later in the opening half, but senior forward Len Smith's shot glanced off of the post, bounded across the goal and spun out of bounds.
Midwestern State flowed players into the offensive zone searching for the equalizer for the remainder of the contest. The tactic produced a 17-10 overall edge in shots, but left MSU forever chasing the equalizing finish.
The loss marks the end of the line for a group of five quality seniors including Smith, Kalen Ryden, Andrew Power, Chase Robertson and Eric Glad.
"I am proud of the seniors and we will miss them, but we have a solid group coming back," Elder said. "We will load back up and make another run at it next year."