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Freemen Finish Fourth at National Tournament

11/18 – The Providence Freemen men’s soccer program entered the NCCAA Division II National Championships hoping to bring home their first ever national title. They started the tournament well with a dominant victory over a strong Southwestern Christian University squad, but then proceeded to lose tight contests against Southeastern University and Ohio Christian University to fall to a fourth place finish.

The #1 ranked Freemen squad opened their tournament Friday night against an unknown team in #8 Southwestern Christian University. SCU came into the tournament with a 13-2 record and as the 2009 ACCA national tournament champions, but they were a relatively unknown team at the NCCAA national level. The only thing known about the team was that they owned a high-octane offense and that they believed they were worthy of the #1 seed themselves.

However, the Freemen came out determined to prove themselves in the eyes of the many doubters around the league, and started the game with high intensity. “The South American Sensation” Andry Giesbrecht started the scoring early as he deflected home a goal to put the Freemen up by one. His brother, “Super” Mario, then put away the game’s next goal as he received a ball behind the SCU defenders, accelerated to the net, and fired home a shot behind a sprawling SCU goalkeeper. Andry then scored two more to earn a hat-trick as he tipped home a cross-in from senior Jon Patterson and then fired home another to put the Freemen up 4-0 at the half.

Southwestern came out hard to start the second half and caught a relaxed Freemen squad off-guard with their newly-found intensity. They started their comeback as the SCU forward received a long ball off his chest, and, with his back to the net, bicycle-kicked a goal into the far back corner. SCU then scored another goal shortly after as a long ball took an awkward bounce and somehow found the back of the net to bring SCU within two. However, the Freemen stopped the comeback there as Miguel Fictoria dribbled his way down the right side, cut through defenders, and then sent a pass across the net that Brendan Wiens made no mistake in burying to finish the game’s scoring at 5-2.

The win guaranteed Providence a top four finish, and sent them into a Saturday night semi-final math-up against #5 seed Southeastern University. The game was a re-match from last year’s semi-final that saw the Freemen get outplayed the entire match, but sneak away with a 1-0 victory decided by penalty kicks.

Needless to say the rivalry was heated, and the game was filled with high-intensity action. The stands were filled, the floodlights were on, and the whistle blew to send the two teams into a game that saw a furious pace maintained throughout. The sides played beautiful counter-attack soccer as both teams took turns flying down the field at one another. But it was the Freemen who found the net first as Yohannes Asrat put home a rebound off of a blistering Andry Giesbrecht shot to put the Freemen up 1-0 at half.

However, the Southeastern squad started to use their deep bench to their advantage, bringing on three to four subs at a time, and slowly began to wear down the Freemen side. Southeastern then scored their first goal with 17 minutes left in the game as they headed home a cross-in past Freemen keeper Jesse Lofthouse. SEU then scored one more late goal as they deflected a bouncing ball into the back of the net to steal the win and finish the game’s scoring at 2-1 in their favor.

The loss sent the Freemen into the 3rd place game against the surprise team of the tournament in #7 Ohio Christian University. Ohio came into the tournament with most teams expecting them to finish dead last, but instead they entered the 3rd place game without allowing any goals throughout the tourney, as they lost their only game to eventual champions Clearwater Christian College in a match decided by penalty kicks.

The Freemen once again started with high intensity to start the game and established themselves as the controlling team early on. Providence pounded away at the OCU defense, and “Super” Mario was eventually taken down in the penalty area only six minutes into the game to set up a Freemen penalty kick. Andry Giesbrescht then proceeded to fire a penalty shot out that beat the keeper, but hit the right post and bounced back into the field of play. The Freemen then continued to hammer away and control play throughout the half, but saw three more of their shots hit posts, and the rest were sent flying wide of the net.

Providence then continued to control in the second half, but it was OCU who earned the first goal as an Ohio forward ran onto a through ball and snuck it past Freemen keeper Jesse Lofthouse. The Freemen then applied even more pressure, and were finally able to find the back of the net as Andry sent a hard shot into the bottom right hand corner to even up the score at one apiece.

But Ohio answered back shortly after as an OCU midfielder snuck a floating shot into the top corner of the net to take the lead 2-1. Providence then pushed up hard for the remainder of the game and created multiple opportunities, but remained unable to finish their many chances. OCU then took advantage of the Freemen’s push, and put away a counter-attack goal to take the game 3-1.

The loss left the Freemen and their fans disheartened. After a season that saw the Freemen earn a victory against the 2008 national champions in Manhattan Christian College, players and fans had expected nothing less than an appearance in the championship finals.

However, the squad recorded an impressive overall record of 13-3, earned both the MCAC and a regional titles, and their 4th place finish at the NCCAA national tournament is the second best result in the Freemen soccer programs’ history. And on a squad that only sees three players graduate this year, the team’s success seems likely to grow as they enter next season’s schedule.

Notes: Graduating players from the Freemen include Jon Patterson, Tory Walker, and Giancarlo Calla….Andry Giesbrecht earned NCCAA Division II All-Tournament honors for his play in the tournament….Senior Tory Walker was named as one of the CCSN Premium Eleven for his play throughout the season…The tournament marked Coach Martin Ward’s 16th season with the squad and his 6th appearance at the national tournament.

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