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Cougars win UMAC championship, head to NCAA Tournament

For the first time since 2008, the University of Minnesota, Morris men's soccer team is Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) Tournament Champions, beating rival St. Scholastica in a 6-5 shootout after a 2-2 tie Saturday. For the first time in the program's short history, the Cougars are headed to the NCAA Tournament, earning the UMAC's automatic qualifier as the tournament champions.

"It was pretty amazing to watch," head coach Scott Turnbull said. "The comeback was like something out of the movies. It was just our will and determination that got it done for us today. I think we definitely got better as the game went on."

For the second time in as many games, it took a shootout for Morris to prevail, but this one came with a frantic comeback late in the second half just to get to overtime. After scoring twice in the final 20 minutes to tie the match at 2-2, the Cougars and top-seeded St. Scholastica played two scoreless overtimes to force the shootout.

"I felt that if we got one, we would get two," Turnbull said. "After that first goal, the momentum totally shifted in our favor. It was amazing to see the transformation of the team to a dangerous attacking team by the end of the game."

In the shootout, finally, on the eighth shooter, Cougar goalkeeper Tyler Weber came up with a huge save, and Dylan Urban knocked in the winner, giving the Cougars a 6-5 win. Weber was named Tournament MVP after the match, posting a shutout in the win over Northwestern in the semifinals, and coming up with eight saves Saturday, including six in the second half and overtime.

"Weber came up huge for us again," Turnbull said. "He's playing his best at the right time."

The Saints scored late in the first half and in the 73rd minute of the second to lead 2-0 with time winding down, and appeared to be on their way to a third straight tournament title. But in the 75th minute, the Cougars' Toby Glaser took a pass in the box from Urban to finally put his team on the board, and keep their title hopes alive. It was the first goal the Cougars had scored all season on the Saints, losing 1-0 twice during the regular season.

Then in the 89th minute, it was Glaser with the assist, passing to Ebrima Badgie at the top of the box who saved the season with the game-tying goal. It was his team-leading sixth goal of the season for Badgie, but his first in six games, ending his longest drought of the year. Badgie led all players with seven total shots in the match, and scored just a minute after the Saints nearly put the game away with a header in the box. He also nearly ended the match early in the second overtime, with a laser off the crossbar.

The teams combined for just four shots on goal on the two overtime periods, with the Cougars outshooting the Saints 16-13 for the game.

After the Saints opened the shootout with a goal, the Cougars missed on their first, as Kevin Haider's shot beat Saint goalkeeper Sam Reed, but bounced off the right post to put them in an early hole. The Saints led 2-1 after the first two rounds, but their third shooter sailed his attempt high, allowing Glaser to pull the Cougars even after the first three rounds.

Each team made their fourth and missed on their fifth attempt, and after a Weber save on the Saints' sixth shooter, it looked like the Cougars were in business. However, the official said Weber came off his line, letting the Saints' Kyle Farrar retake the attempt. The Saints' leading scorer with 14 goals and 39 points, Farrar had already done his damage in the game, scoring each of his team's goals. He came up big again, making his second try worth it, before each team made their seventh, sending it to an eighth shooter.

Then it was Weber's turn for the big play, stopping the Saints' Ryan Cullen, to set up Urban for the win.

It was a typical Morris-Scholastica match, with 27 total fouls and eight yellow cards handed out, including two to the Saints' Ace Amin, who was ejected after assisting on each of St. Scholastica's goals.

The 16 shots by the Cougars were the most the Saints had allowed to a UMAC team all season, and second most all year. Badgie and Glaser each had three shots on goal, while the Saints were led by Andrew Jenkins with five, but he came up empty each time.

It was the first time all season the Cougars came back from a two-goal deficit, allowing two scores for the first time since the season opener. The Cougars won in their first two trips to the Championship game, suffering their first loss in 2009 in a shootout that went 10 players deep after a 0-0 tie.

The win gives the Cougars a 3-2 edge all-time over the Saints in UMAC Tournament Championship games, ending St. Scholastica's season while Morris will wait to see where they will play next. The NCAA will announce the 2011 Division III Championship Bracket, with first-round play beginning at the end of the week.