UPDATE: The Buccaneer Men's Soccer team will play Big South Champion Coastal Carolina this Thursday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. in Conway, S.C., in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
FORT MYERS, Fla. (Nov. 17, 2013) - Earning its second Atlantic Sun Men's Soccer Championship in four years, ETSU clinched a bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 3-1 win over North Florida Sunday afternoon in the A-Sun Championship Final.
Complementing its league-best defense with a three-goal offensive effort, the Buccaneers (10-5-4) extended their five-match win streak in their most crucial match of the season. The victory marked ETSU's fourth consecutive season of 10 or more wins.
"This is a special group of players," ETSU head coach Scott Calabrese said following the win. "They have worked extremely hard from day one and all their hard work has paid off. It's everything they deserve. They have earned this championship."
Behind a powerful, left-footed strike from Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year Nate Hodges (Meridian, Miss.), ETSU grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute.
A cross from freshman William Nordenstrom (Linkoping, Sweden) into the box was headed away by a UNF defender; however, Hodges gathered the ball about 30 yards out and fired a shot past UNF goalkeeper Brad Sienkiewicz. The goal was the tri-captain's second of the season.
ETSU took the 1-0 lead into intermission and the second-seeded Bucs wasted little time adding to it in the second half.
In the opening minute of the second half, sophomore Donte Brangman (Southampton, Bermuda) converted a pass from Emmanuel Wilson (Memphis) to give the Bucs a 2-0 lead.
"I think UNF came out to press us early in the second half to try to get that goal back," Calabrese said. "We responded really quickly. Today we were able to capitalize on several good chances that we created."
In firm control of the momentum, the Bucs held the fifth-seeded Ospreys (8-7-3) without a goal until the 82nd minute when Simen Solstad put UNF on the board.
However, the Bucs responded less than five minutes later, with Wilson carrying the ball down the right side and into the box before beating Sienkiewicz for his fourth goal of the season, securing the 3-1 win and the championship.
ETSU recorded 14 shots, creating many scoring opportunities, while locking down the middle of the field and holding UNF to just seven shots.
"The entire team buys into and believes that working hard defensively will help us to achieve our goals," Calabrese said. "That is really what gave us the foundation for our success in the game."Following the match, Hodges was named Tournament MVP. He was joined on the All-Tournament Team by teammates Wilson, Nordenstrom, David Geno (Kingsport), Ryan Coulter (Dublin, Ireland) and Itode Fubara (Ogbema, Nigeria).
In the program's short, six-year history, ETSU has won two Atlantic Sun Championship titles.
"I think it shows that the players within the program have a hunger for success. They are never satisfied, always wanting to get better."
ETSU will compete in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday, Nov. 21.
The Bucs will learn their opponent during an NCAA Selection Show Party at Beef 'O' Brady's, 2913 Boones Creek Road, Johnson City, on Monday, Nov. 18, at 11 a.m.