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SPORTS: CBU sweeps NCCAA soccer tourney

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (BP) — California Baptist University soccer teams swept the National Christian College Athletic Association’s national title games Dec. 3, with the men’s team beating Geneva College 2-1 and the women’s team defeating Trinity International University 2-1 in Kissimmee, Fla.

“What’s special about this one is the three seniors who have been here the last four years and have been a part of the growth and development of this program,” CBU men’s coach Ryan Jorden said. “For them to win this championship and be rewarded for their dedication and perseverance is fantastic. They’re the ones who have done the work and led the way for us to get to this point.”

All three seniors performed well in their final game. Willie Rupert, who started every Lancers’ game the past four years, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Osvaldo Bastida and Ruben Sanchez both helped the Lancers control possession.

But it was freshman Michael Salazar, the Pacific West Conference Freshman of the Year, who scored both CBU goals, the final one coming with just nine minutes left, to lead the Lancers to their first-ever NCCAA national title.

“He’s had a typical freshman year with its ups and downs, but for him to score twice and play his absolute best game on the biggest stage of the season is impressive,” Jorden said of Salazar. “He displayed the qualities that we love in him and make us excited about his future in this program.”

The Lancers conclude their finest season in program history at 17-5-1, setting a record for wins in a season and winning a PacWest title in their first season in the conference. The women also set a record for wins, going 18-2-1 on the year and also winning a PacWest title.

In the women’s game, Bernadette Witz, who missed seven games due to injury earlier in the season, scored twice to erase an early deficit and give the CBU the win. It was also the women’s first NCCAA national title.

“We had some adversity early, but the girls rolled up their sleeves, went to work and overcame it,” CBU coach Kristen St. Clair said. “I’m really excited for the players, because they worked hard and are deserving. I’m proud of Bernie, too. She battled through adversity with multiple injuries all year. We are blessed to have several players who can score, but today’s was Bernie’s turn to shine.”

“I’m just glad I could come out and do something for my team,” Witz said. “They’ve been so supportive of me all year, and there’s no greater feeling than scoring in the final game and winning the championship. It makes up for all the other stuff that went on this year.”

Witz, Fabiola Zanella da Silva, Kylee Nicassio and Nicoline Jorgensen were named to the NCCAA All-Tournament Team, with Nicassio being named the tournament’s top offensive player.

For the men, Rupert, Brian Ahn, Carlos Figueroa and Jonathan Garcia were named to the all-tournament team, with Ahn being named the tournament’s most outstanding defensive player.

The tournament consisted of eight teams, with each CBU team coming into the event as the top seed.

The NCCAA, a nonprofit association of approximately 100 Christ-centered collegiate institutions, hosts 23 national championships and invitationals annually. CBU is also in the middle of a three-year process of becoming a member of NCAA Division II.
Compiled by Tim Ellsworth.

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