Seattle University picked up an early goal and then depended on a solid night in the net by goalie Jake Feener (Rocklin, Calif.) before putting away a late tally to defeat Air Force, 2-0, Friday afternoon in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference Men’s Soccer Tournament at Cadet Soccer Stadium.
Both teams took the first 10 minutes of the match to feel each other out before Seattle U gained possession, with Ian Hines-Ike (Littleton, Colo.) earning the first scoring chance with a blast that sailed over the crossbar. In the 12th minute, Cameron Rohani (Cartersville, Ga.) found Renato Bandeira (Sammamish, Wash.) open just outside the box, and Bandeira blasted a shot from the left side into the lower right corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
Air Force (4-11-5) started gaining more possession of the ball, creating scoring chances for Caleb Downey and Brian Klazura that were turned away by Feener. Midway through the first half, the Redhawks put together an offensive flurry, but shots by Hamza Haddadi (Shoreline, Wash.) and Shane Mahvi (San Diego, Calif.) were stopped by Falcon goalie Jake Schenk.
The Falcons continued to pressure Feener and the Seattle U defense, but the Redhawks were ready, as the senior goalie continued to keep the ball out of the net. In the first half, Air Force outshot Seattle U, 8-5, with Feener making five saves to keep the Falcons off the scoreboard.
In the second half, Feener made an early save off a shot by Tucker Axhoj, and then the Redhawks attempted to increase their lead, but Schenk was able to turn away a shot by Miguel Gonzalez (Yelm, Wash.) in the 54th minute to keep it a one-goal contest. In the 64th minute, Gonzalez was able to get his head on a Redhawk corner kick, but the ball hit the crossbar and bounced away.
Gonzalez, the WAC Offensive Player of the Year, had another golden opportunity in the 79th minute, but Schenk deflected his chip shot over the crossbar. Hines-Ike also created a couple of chances thanks to his ball-handling, but one sailed high and the other was stopped by Schenk.
With less than five minutes to go in regulation, Feener made his biggest save of the night, turning away a header from Klazura that seemed destined for the back of the net. A couple of minutes later, Mahvi sent a long pass to Gonzalez to start a counterattack, and Gonzalez rewarded Jeff Rose (Carmichael, Calif.) for joining the attack by crossing the ball to the redshirt freshman, who converted on the scoring chance for his fourth goal of the season.
“The guys battled tonight. It was a difficult game, Air Force is a tough team, and it wasn’t over until that second goal late in the match,” Seattle U head coach Pete Fewing said. “I am pleased with the guys’ performance. The first goal was a good one by Renato, and Miguel showed class by handing off the second goal to Jeff. Jake made a huge save late in the match. We know what’s on the line Sunday; it’s the WAC championship and an opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament. It will be a battle no matter who we play, but our guys will be fired up and ready to go.”
Feener finished with 10 saves, the second-highest total in a match this season for the senior, while Hines-Ike led the offense with five shots. For Air Force, Klazura led all players with seven total shots, including four shots on goal, and Schenk collected six saves to keep the Falcons close.
Seattle University (9-8-4) will advance to the WAC title game and face the winner of the second semifinal between Bakersfield and San Jose State Sunday, Nov. 17, at 12 noon local time (11 a.m. Pacific time). Live stats and live video will be available at WACSports.com.