Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
AUSTIN- If there was any doubt about the UMHB men’s soccer team’s place in the American Southwest Conference entering Saturday’s ASC Championship match, the Crusaders left no doubt when the final horn sounded 90 minutes later.
The top-seeded Crusaders led just 1-0 at halftime, but scored five second-half goals to down sixth-seeded LeTourneau, capturing the ASC title, and earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament for just the fourth time in program history.
It was a monumental win, considering the last conference championship came in 2018, when the majority of UMHB’s current roster was still in high school. In total, through two matches at the ASC Tournament, the Cru outscored the opposition 11-1, not a number you see often in a sport where one or two goals is the common margin.
How it happened
Just under six minutes in the championship showdown, Nick Villanueva, one of the few players who has now played in both the 2018 and 2022 ASC championship games, found the back of the net. The early goal was a boost to UMHB’s momentum, and marked the first goal the Cru scored on the Yellowjackets this season, as the two opponents tied, 0-0, on Sept. 29 in Longview.
UMHB pitched another shutout, but this time, the offense could not be slowed. At least, not in the final 20 minutes. It was still 1-0 as the 70th minute approached, LETU very much in the fight. But fifth-year senior Patrick Roach came through with a much needed insurance goal for the Cru at the 70:15 mark, and a scoring frenzy ensued.
Alex Bethke placed a penalty kick past the diving LETU goalkeeper five minutes later, making it 3-0, and Roach followed with his second goal of the day, off an excellent pass from Nick Villanueva. That goal early in the 85th minute was the beginning of three goals in five minutes for the Crusaders, as they took control in the blink of an eye.
Roach dished an assist to Karsen Macias, who promptly came through with his seventh goal of the year in the 88th minute, and then it was Villanueva with his second score of the afternoon, just 58 seconds before the 90-minute mark.
The success of UMHB’s offensive attack was impressive, both on the field, and on the stat sheet. The Cru tallied a season-high 27 shots, 19 of which were on goal, also a season-best. LETU struggled against the defensive pressure of UMHB, putting just two shots on frame.
This performance sets the tone for UMHB heading into the NCAA Tournament, in which the Cru will get an opportunity to see how they stack up against the nation’s best. Anything is possible in the national tournament, and the Crusaders will find out where they stand in the bracket on Monday at 12:30 p.m. CT.
There will be more to come on this story in the coming days, including insight from head coach Ben Allen.