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Cougar men are conference champs

The University of Minnesota, Morris men's soccer team earned the title of conference champion with an 8-1 win over Presentation College Saturday at home.

The win improves the Cougars' record to 13-1 and secures the No. 1 spot in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference post-season tournament, which gives the Cougars home-field advantage.

In their first year, three seasons ago, the Cougars looked like a new organization, posting a 3-11-4 record, good for sixth place in the UMAC. But head coach Christian DeVries knew he had something special in the O'Connor brothers - Justin and Patrick.

The next season, the O'Connors recruited some of their friends to UMM: forward Brent Diggs, defender Dana Veth, and midfielder Kelsey Duerr, and pretty soon DeVries had a formidable roster of talent on his hands.

Steadily, the Cougars improved, finishing third in 2007, second in 2008, and this season all alone in first place, UMAC champions, after an 8-1 shallacking of Presentation College.

The win improved the Cougars 2009 record to 15-4, their best ever.

This was the last regular season game for the O'Connors, Diggs, Duerr, Veth and David Reich.

Patrick O'Connor (2 goals, 1 assist), Diggs (2 goals, 1 assist) and Duerr (1 goal) all contributed points to the win while Justin O'Connor and Veth kept the Saints' offense in check all afternoon.

An emotional DeVries had only praise for his seniors.

"I can't say enough for what they've done and where they've gotten us and what they've established for UMM soccer and where we're going to go from here."

Where the Cougars will go now is the UMAC tournament where they will host both rounds next week. On Tuesday, UMM hosts Northwestern College (7-13-1) at 2 p.m. on Cougar Soccer Field. The Cougars have already defeated Northwestern twice this season: 5-0 in Morris on Sept. 25, and 1-0 on Oct. 10 in Minneapolis.

Should the Cougars defeat Northwestern, they will face the winner of the St. Scholastica/Crown semi-final next Saturday.

On Saturday, Diggs got the Cougars' scoring started at the 11:25 mark on assists from Greg Borchers and Zach Gilseth.

In the 15th minute, Duerr scored on a Diggs assist.

Gilseth scored at 23:42 on an assist from Patrick O'Connor.

Presentation answered less than a minute later on an unassisted goal by Brandon Spanier.

At 29:00, Patrick O'Connor scored unassisted.

Second-half scoring started at 59:33 when Diggs tallied a goal on assists from Mattson Towley and Patrick O'Connor.

Twenty second later, Towley scored on a Toby Glaser assist.

In the 60th minute, Patrick O'Connor added a point on a penalty kick.

Diggs closed out the scoring at 64:51 with Gilseth being credited with the assist.