ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – (box score) In a rematch of the 2008 National Championship final, unseeded Bethel (Tenn.) eliminated No. 1-seed Rio Grande (Ohio), 2-1 today in the first game of the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship final site from the Orange Beach Sportsplex. Bethel (14-5-1), who defeated Rio Grande by the same score in overtime to win the 2008 title, now advances to play at 7:30 p.m. CST on Wednesday against the winner of Mobile (Ala.) and Belhaven (Miss.).
After a scoreless first half, Bethel took a 2-0 lead and held on against the undefeated RedStorm. Rio Grande allowed multiple goals for just the fourth time this year in 23 matches.
In the 64th minute, Bethel junior Dawyne Smith found the back of the net past goalkeeper Jack Marchant. Smith’s 12th goal of the year was assisted by senior Erick Rosas. Nearly three-and-a-half minutes later, team-leader and junior Mario Vila Boa notched his team-best 14th marker on the year. His goal came off a deflection from the Rio Grande defense.
The nation’s second-best scoring offense put its first tally on the scoreboard in the 75th minute. RedStorm sophomore Richard Isberner made things interesting and cut the deficit to 2-1 with his 18th goal of the season. His play came off of a penalty kick.
The Bethel defense, in front of goalkeeper Chaz Dachenhaus, held strong in the game’s final 15 minutes. Dachenhaus made three of his seven saves in the final stretch. He improved to 8-3-1 on the year.
Marchant falls to 7-1-0 in goal on the year for the RedStorm. Rio Grande ends its season with a 22-1 record.
Hosted by the Alabama Gulf Coast Sports Commission and the University of Mobile, the Championship continues with the second match between No. 15 Science & Arts (Okla.) and Great Falls (Mont.) at 2:30 p.m. CST.
NOTES: Bethel improves to 8-1-1 all-time in the National Championship… The Wildcats have won at least one match in three of their four appearances… Rio Grande falls to 17-7-2 in the National Championship… The last time Rio Grande was the No. 1 seed, the team lost 2-0 against Hastings (Neb.) in the 2005 Quarterfinals… Rio Grande was held to its lowest scoring output this year… Bethel’s Mario Vila Boa was named the 2008 National Championship Most Valuable Player.