Seattle University scored midway through the first half, and then the defense and goalkeeping allowed the lead to hold up as the Redhawks completed an unbeaten conference season with a 1-0 victory over San Jose State Saturday night in Western Athletic Conference play at Championship Field.
Both teams came out firing in the early part of the match, as San Jose State took two shots in the first four minutes and Seattle U followed with several scoring attempts. The first good chance for the Redhawks came in the seventh minute, as a corner kick from Ian Hines-Ike (Littleton, Colo.) found the head of Jonathan Massimino (San Ramon, Calif.), but Spartan goalkeeper Emmanuel Espinosa was able to turn Massimino’s header away.
Another Redhawk header from Brady Ballew (Marysville, Wash.) in the eighth minute was stopped by Espinosa, and Miguel Gonzalez (Yelm, Wash.) nearly converted on his header opportunity in the 13th minute, but Espinosa picked up another save. Two minutes after coming into the match, Jeff Rose (Carmichael, Calif.) received a crossing pass from Gonzalez and beat Espinosa from 15 yards out for his third goal of the season in the 24th minute.
Rose earned another scoring opportunity late in the half, but Espinosa made his fourth save before halftime. Seattle U outshot San Jose State in the first half, 8-4, and earned four corner kick opportunities as the Redhawks controlled the possession through most of the half.
San Jose State (3-12-3, 3-6-1 WAC) started earning its own scoring opportunities 15 minutes into the second half, as a header by Israel Ayala was blocked by the Redhawk defense. Seattle U goalie Jake Feener (Rocklin, Calif.) made two key saves midway through the second half, first off a header from Frankie Beauchamp, and then on a one-on-one opportunity created by Rory Knibbs.
As the Spartans continued to apply offensive pressure, Feener and the Seattle U defense toughened up, as Knibbs picked up another scoring chance with less than 15 minutes remaining that Feener turned away. Late in the half, Enrique Montano took back-to-back shots that the Redhawk defenders kept from reaching the goal, and Seattle U was able to clinch its seventh conference win of the season.
“There’s a different resiliency on this team than there has been in the past, and we’re willing to keep fighting the rest of the way,” Feener said. “To finish the conference undefeated, that’s a big accomplishment for us that we wouldn’t have seen in the past. We want to continue in the tournament, we don’t feel like we’re done here, we don’t feel like we’re at the top yet.”
With a 13-6 shot advantage after halftime, San Jose State finished the night with more shots than Seattle U, 17-14. Feener collected five saves, all in the second half, while Espinosa ended up with seven saves.
“I’m proud of the guys for not giving up this season. Now we want to do more. Now heading into the conference tournament, we’ll have a bull’s-eye on our chest, which is fine. It comes with the territory. But we’re not done yet,” Seattle U head coach Peter Fewing said.
Fewing specifically mentioned seniors Renato Bandeira (Sammamish, Wash.), Feener, Gonzalez, and Bobby Segal (Portland, Ore.) for the leadership they showed throughout the season. Before the match, the four seniors were recognized on the field with their families in Senior Night ceremonies. After the contest, the entire team unveiled the banner signifying the 2013 Western Athletic Conference regular season championship.
Seattle University (8-8-4, 7-0-3 WAC) will go into the WAC Tournament in Colorado Springs, Colo., as the number one seed with a bye into the semifinals Friday, Nov. 15, at 3 p.m. local time against the winner of the first round match between fourth seed Air Force and fifth seed Houston Baptist. The winner of the conference tournament will receive the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.