Conquistadors lose heartbreaking CAC final in penalty shootout

Conquistadors lose heartbreaking CAC final in penalty shootout graphic.
Conquistadors lose heartbreaking CAC final in penalty shootout. (Nov. 11, 2023)

(Box Score

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. ( Nov. 11, 2023) – Florida National men’s soccer will have to wait another season to claim a long-awaited Continental Athletic Conference (CAC) title. RV Bellevue University Bruins (12-5-3) defeated No. 12 FNU (11-2-5) in penalties 5-4 to conquer another men’s soccer conference championship. Full time and two overtime periods saw both these squads leveled at 2-2 and was the backdrop to one of the most thrilling CAC finals in the last few years.

FNU earned their spot in the final after a wild 5-4 win over Georgia Gwinnett College, while Bellevue comfortably defeated Washington Adventist University 1-0. 

In the opening half of the final, FNU took matters into their own hands and did not let the Bruins execute their brand of ball-control soccer. A few seconds past the 10-minute mark of the opening half, forward Manuel Rodriguez sliced through the Bruins’ defense on the left side of the field and split the defense for a cutting strike that zipped past Bruins goalie Taariq Ganga for the score.

The Conquistador’s 1-0 lead was short-lived, however. Eight minutes following the Rodriguez beauty, BU’s Jake Cover finished off a stellar score following a solid counterattack initiated by the Bruins midfield to level the contest. FNU seemed flustered by the shift in momentum and began committing fouls in dangerous areas just outside the 18-yard box. The Bruins capitalized on these FNU errors and a free kick found the head of Ombeni Mubake, putting the Bruins ahead 2-1.

Five minutes before the halftime whistle, a free ball that bounced into a crowded Bruins penalty area found Vinicius Mallmann and the back of the net after a no-call foul lulled Bruins defenders who were not prepared for the strike. Both teams would have to settle for a 2-2 tie at the break. 

In the second, the Bruins did a solid job of defending FNU, holding the Conquistadors to just 11 shots through two halves. Notably, Rodriguez had a good look in the second from long range that just missed wide of the mark. As all signs pointed to overtime, Bellevue’s Matias Daniel-Doren took the final corner kick of regulation but could not materialize a much-needed goal. 

Thus, both teams played two 10-minute overtime periods with neither team breaking through the other’s defenses. Mateo Cigaina and Rodriguez each posted a shot attempt in the overtime that couldn’t do the trick. As the whistle sounded on the field of the Grizzly Soccer Complex, the Bruins and Conquistadors would have to rely on penalties to crown a champion. 

FNU was the first to step up to the marker, with Ricardo Delwing confidently whipping his shot safely in the back of the net. Bellevue’s Antonio Capra converted his attempt against FNU goalie Juan Manuel Fermoselle and Mallmann took care of business on his end on the next FNU attempt. Francisco Crimi put his team ahead on his penalty strike before Fletcher Hedge leveled the game once again.

Unfortunately for FNU, Santiago Leaniz had his penalty shot emphatically blocked by Ganga. This proved to be the difference as made strikes from Daniel-Doren and Buster Honeywood sent the Bruins bench on the field in jubilation, as BU celebrated an unprecedented fourth straight CAC title and an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament. 

Up Next: FNU and the rest of the NAIA’s competitive field await the Men’s Soccer Selection Show on Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. 

Continental Athletic Conference (CAC) logo.