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Clearwater Wins First Soccer National Championship

(11/17/09) Kissimmee, FL - On Monday, November 16, the Clearwater Christian College men’s soccer team defeated Southeastern University 2-1 to win the NCCAA II National Championship. Tyler Spraul, captain and South Region Player of the Year, scored an amazing goal in overtime to earn the first men’s soccer national championship in school history. Spraul’s goal came only 2 minutes into the first golden-goal overtime on a full volley past the Southeastern keeper into the upper left corner off a cross from Danny Post. The goal set off a wild celebration as the Cougars celebrated their stunning win with the over 500 ecstatic fans who had made the trip over to Kissimmee to support the team.

“That was probably one of the best goals I have ever been a part of – especially given what was at stake in the match. Tyler is a great clutch player, and he again came up huge for us tonight,” said Coach James Whitaker after the match.

Drew Custer scored the first goal 22 minutes into the 1st half from 10 yards out off an assist from Juan Robayo. The first half of the match continued back and forth with both teams creating chances, but both defenses held strong with the halftime score 1-0.

The second half began much like the first. Southeastern slowly gained momentum, creating a number of chances until they equalized on a header from Stephen Eppinger with 11 minutes left in the match. Both defenses held strong and regulation ended with a 1-1 tie.

After re-grouping in overtime, the Cougars came out strong, intent on getting the game winning goal. Danny Post out-raced the Fire defender to the ball and served a great cross to the top of the box for Spraul who hammered it home to give the Cougars the win and the National Championship. After the match, Spraul said, “Beating Southeastern in the National Championship was the perfect ending to a season I'll never forget.”

This was the 4th meeting between the two teams this season. After splitting their regular season matches, Clearwater also defeated the Fire in the South Region Championship game by a score of 1-0. Clearwater had earned the automatic bid to the national tournament and entered the tournament as the #3 seed. Southeastern earned the lone at-large bid to the tournament and came in as the #5 seed. Both teams had advanced through the first 2 rounds of the national tournament, with Clearwater defeating Northland International University (Wisconsin) and Ohio Christian University, and Southeastern defeating Lancaster Bible College (Pennsylvania) and Providence College (Manitoba, Canada).

When asked about the match and the rivalry, Whitaker added, “This was another epic battle between 2 great teams. Both teams know each other so well, and we knew it was going to be at least a 90 minute match. I’m so proud of our players. They worked so hard and battled all season. This was a fitting end to an amazing season.”

Clearwater finished its season with a 14-2-4 record and a 3-1 record versus Southeastern. Goalkeeper Anthony DeRosse, midfielder Tyler Spraul, and central defender Matt Tewes were named All-Tournament for their outstanding play over the weekend, and Tewes was also named the Most Outstanding Player. In addition, James Whitaker took home the award as the NCCAA II National Coach of the Year.

The crowning moment of CCC’s men’s soccer team was not only witnessed by hundreds of excited fans, but also by the coaches that have seen the team from its beginnings. Mr. Bob Carver, Dr. Phil Larson, and Mr. Mark Bates were there to cheer the team on. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!” said Mr. Carver. “I was absolutely ecstatic! Being there with Phil Larsen and Mark Bates, in addition to James Whitaker, showed the progression of coaches since 1977. It was very exciting. There were a lot of fans in support of the team and it was the perfect black-out night.”