MONTGOMERY, Ala. ---- The Auburn University at Montgomery men's soccer team saw its season come to an end in the quarterfinals of the NAIA National Championship on Wednesday, as it fell 1-0 to MidAmerica Nazarene at the Emory Folmar Soccer Complex.
The Warhawks conclude their season with an 18-4-2 record, a mark which was the most by an AUM team since the 2005 squad finished 23-2. The Warhawks, who were shutout for just the second time this year, fell to 17-9-3 all-time in championship matches.
"I am really proud to have been the coach of these guys this year," head coach Wulf Koch said. "I told them after the game that this was going to hurt for a few days, a few weeks and even a few months. We had a great year, but they now know what it will take to get to that next level and advance to the Final Four, and eventually win a national championship. This is going to be etched in their mind for a while. Losses hurt, especially in an environment like this."
The Pioneers (13-1-9) broke a scoreless tie at the 54:08 mark of the match, when Aurelien Norest scored following a corner kick by Matias Fernandez. On the play, the Warhawks cleared the ball, but Gyer Vierthaler was able to track down the loose ball and lob a volley back into the box, which Norest finished.
"It was just one of those things," Koch said of the game winner. "I thought we were pressing them and had a great momentum going. Then they countered us and we gave up a corner kick. We cleared the ball and then their guy got the ball and no one pressured him. He had all the time in the world to pick out his guy and he finished it."
Despite playing to a scoreless tie in the opening half, each team had several opportunities to take the lead.
The Warhawks rushed out of the gates, posting four shots in the opening 8:42, including two of which were on goal. The Pioneers answered with four straight shots in a 2:29 span, with a pair of shots bouncing off the post.
Midway through the period, AUM attempted three corner kicks during a 55-second stretch, but was able to get off just one shot, an attempt by sophomore Elvar Sigurdsson that went wide.
At the half, MNU led in total shots, 9-7, but the Warhawks held a 3-1 advantage in shots on goal.
AUM dodged a pair of scoring opportunities prior to the game winner in the second half, thanks to two saves by junior Vignir Johannesson. Trent Remmich and Eddie Morales each put shots on goal in the 53rd minute, but both were stopped by the all-conference performer.
Following the score, the Warhawks upped their intensity on the offensive end, recording nine of the final 10 shots in the final 34 minutes of the match. Despite AUM's efforts, Pioneer goalkeeper Chris Ericksson was up for the challenge, tallying four saves in the final 30:15 of the contest.
The Warhawks had their best scoring chances of the second half in the final six minutes of the match, but shots by junior Taian Souza and freshman Agust Arnarson each went high. Freshman Sebastian Wladyko posted one last attempt for AUM, but his shot was blocked by Kalev Saama with three seconds remaining in the match.
For the match, the Warhawks finished with 17 shots, compared to 13 for NMU. Sigurdsson finished with a team-high four shots, while Wladyko, Arnarson and junior Vitor Silva each added three. Johannesson recorded four saves in the match.
With the win, the Pioneers advanced to the National Championship Semifinals, where they will face Mobile on Friday.