Pioneers again advance on PKs, to play for national title

Pioneers again advance on PKs, to play for national title
Wayland Baptist (Source: Wayland Baptist University)

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – The Wayland Baptist men's soccer team had been there, done that when it came to advancing on a penalty-kick shoot-out. Now, the Pioneers are going somewhere no one ever thought they would: the NAIA National Championship match.

Wayland, ranked 23rd but unseeded in the national tournament, advanced out of Friday's semifinal with a 4-2 PK result against top-seeded, second-ranked Oklahoma Wesleyan. Now the Pioneers – who had played in only one national championship match prior to this season – are just one win away from the national title!

That match will be played at 5 p.m. CST Saturday against either No. 3 seed Missouri Valley (18-2-3) or No. 10 seed Marymount, Calif. (18-3-2). Those teams met immediately after Wayland's thriller.

After Wayland (16-5-3) and Eagles (22-1-2) tied 2-2 in 110 minutes of double-overtime action, the match went to PKs. It was the second straight PK shoot-out for the Pioneers, who after tying No. 15 Columbia, Mo., in the quarterfinals, 1-1, advanced on PKs, 5-4.

Both teams' goalies – Ziggy Camejo for Wayland and Dusan Djordjev for Oklahoma Wesleyan – smothered the first shots, but the Pioneers didn't miss again.

James Quinn fired next for Wayland and was matched by the Eagles' Stefan Milicevic. After Lochlen Reus was true for the Pioneers in round three, Camejo gave Wayland the edge it needed when he pushed wide a shot by Alberto Picchi.

After WBU's Ross Brown and OWU's Daniel Cordeiro made their shots, it came down to Luis Almeida, who had the deciding PK in Wednesday's quarterfinal. Once again, the junior from Portugal came through.

The tie snapped Oklahoma Wesleyan's 17-match winning streak and ended the Eagles' run of national championship shutouts. The Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference champion had blanked its first three national tourney opponents by a combined score of 11-0, giving the Eagles 15 shutouts on the year.

Brown ended that 16 minutes, 40 seconds into Wayland's first-ever match against Oklahoma Wesleyan. James Quinn floated in a pass from 25 yards out and Brown, a 6-2 senior from England, was there to head it home.

The Eagles answered in the 31st minute when Stefan Lukic side-stepped a defender in the box and scored.

In the second half, James Westfield scored his team-leading 14th goal when he took a long pass from midfield by Ricardo Ramos and beat the Eagle keeper 1-on-1.

Then, with just less than 10 minutes left in regulation, Oklahoma Wesleyan's Alex Lozono headed in the equalizer after a corner kick and scramble in the box.

Neither team scored in regulation, although both had nice opportunities.

The Pioneers ended with 16 shots, six more than the Eagles. Of those, six were on-goal for Wayland while four were on-target for Wesleyan. Ramos took four shots to lead Wayland, including two on goal, while Federico Ucar had three, all on-the-mark.

On Saturday, the Pioneers will face their sixth straight opponent that is either ranked or receiving Top 25 votes. After defeating Southwestern Christian, ranked the equivalent of 28th, 2-0 in the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament championship, the Pioneers went to Kansas and defeated No. 18 MidAmerica Nazarene, 2-1, in the national championship opening round. WBU then arrived in Florida where the Pioneers took out Cardinal Stritch (Wis.), ranked the equivalent of 29th, 3-2 in the second round before Wednesday's shootout win over 15th-ranked, 12th-seeded Columbia, Mo. Then it was second-ranked, top-seeded Oklahoma Wesleyan's turn to fall to the giant-killing Pioneers.

(A watch party for Saturday's 5 p.m. CST match will be held in the Student Ministries Activities Center, located at Ninth and Utica. Free pizza will be served, while it lasts. All are invited.)