11/17/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/17/2019 21:37
'We set goals at the beginning of the season,' the Bellarmine University men's soccer senior midfielder said, 'but we've just blown them out of the water.'
On Sunday at the Woehrle Athletic Complex, the 12th-ranked and second-seeded Knights added yet another chapter to their history filled season by winning their first-ever Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament title behind a 3-2 victory over 24th-ranked and top-seeded McKendree.
Bellarmine (16-0-4) captured the championship this season after falling in a penalty kick shootout to Maryville in last year's finals. The Knights sealed an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.
'This is what we've been waiting for all season after the loss last year,' junior defender said. 'We collected ourselves and said, 'Next year is our year.' I'm so glad it is.'
After McKendree (15-3-2) scored exactly 15 minutes into the match, Bellarmine responded with three straight goals. They were delivered by Williamson, junior midfielder and freshman forward . Aviles tallied two assists and sophomore defender and junior midfielder notched one helper apiece.
'It's just unbelievable,' said senior forward , the GLVC Offensive Player of the Year. 'We've been looking for this since I got here in 2016. Last year we were so close. We were thinking about that game for a whole year. I have no words; I'm just so happy.'
Bellarmine defeated its second straight ranked opponent in the GLVC Tournament after topping No. 17 Maryville 2-1 on Friday in the semifinals. It was a little dicey at the beginning, as McKendree's James Stone won a scramble for the ball near the top right corner of the box and sank his shot for a 1-0 lead.
Bellarmine would find its footing after that score 15 minutes into the match. In the 27th minute, Williamson drove in a header off an Aviles corner kick to knot the contest at 1-all. Williamson's fifth goal of the season settled the Knights.
'The first 15 minutes we were panicking, we were nervous,' Bernedo said. 'When Eddie got that header, we established ourselves. We talked about it at halftime: We needed to keep our composure and chances were going to come. That's what happened in the second half.'
Indeed, Bellarmine grabbed a 2-1 lead not long after the intermission. In the 52nd minute, Girao made a nice run toward the box and passed ahead to Linscott. Just as Linscott reached the left side of the goal area, he expertly tapped to a hard-charging Rose, who punched it in right in front of the goal. It was his fourth goal of the season.
'Our second goal was just terrific,' Knights Coach said. 'McKendree is hard to score on. They have a lot of players behind the ball. Kudos to our guys today.'
McKendree had not allowed more than two goals in any match this season. That changed in the 80th minute when Ballas headed in an Aviles free kick. Ballas' seventh goal of the season pushed Bellarmine's lead to 3-1.
'We knew we had to put them away - they're a very good team - and that third one closed out the game,' Aviles said. 'We pulled away from them.'
With less than two minutes remaining, McKendree cuts its deficit to 3-2, but Bellarmine had no trouble securing the victory in the final minute. The Knights finished with a 15-6 advantage in shots, including 7-2 on goal, and took all seven of the match's corner kicks.
Bellarmine added another layer to its historical season. The Knights' first GLVC Tournament title comes on top of the most total wins in program history and the most conference wins (10). Bellarmine had an unbeaten regular season and its undefeated streak dating to last season has reached 29.
'We set some really high goals, but saying you're going to be unbeaten could be seen as unrealistic,' Bernedo said. 'We were winning and kept winning and finally we were like, 'Hey boys, we can do this.' We just kept rolling.'
Bellarmine will be transitioning to Division I next season, meaning the Knights went out on top in their last GLVC Tournament.
'Bellarmine's men's soccer program hadn't won a championship yet,' Chastonay said. 'To finally get one and it be the last year in Division II is definitely something special and definitely something this group will cherish forever.'
To view a Photo Gallery of the GLVC Tournament final, visit here.
For more coverage of Bellarmine athletics, follow us on Twitter (@BUKnights), Instagram (BUKnights) and Facebook (BUKnights).