Wildcats News
Sat, Dec. 6, 2008 - [Men's Soccer]
News Photo

FRESNO, Calif. (Saturday, December 6, 2008) - The Bethel College Wildcats conclusion to their 2008 season can not be described anything short of magical winning their last 14 matches. Earning their right to compete in the national tournament by winning the TranSouth Athletic Conference Tournament, the Wildcats entered the field of 30 teams unseeded. They made the most of their opportunity and dominated their five national tourney games, outscoring their opponents 14-1. The Wildcats are the first team from Bethel to make it to a final four, a championship game and the first to bring home a title.

The Bethel out-lasted the University of Rio Grande (Ohio) 2-1 in overtime and is crowned the national champion in the 50th Annual NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship final. Tied 1-1 in the first overtime, freshman forward Mario Vila Boa flipped a 20-yard shot into the net just :15 seconds into the extra period. That goal extended the Wildcats' unbeaten streak to 14 straight and finished their season at 17-5-2 overall.

"I'm very delighted and happy," said Bethel head coach Melvin Belong, who is in his second season. "Our guys worked hard all season and it paid off. All season long we focused on playing with character and not giving upI believe our character carried us tonight."

Neither team had many scoring opportunities in the first half due to some strong defense. There was just one shot on goal in the first 45 minutes, placed by Rio Grande.

In the 59th minute, Rio Grande's Ederson Lopes, who was named to the All-Tournament Team as a forward, gave the Red Storm a 1-0 advantage. Jason Massie assisted on the goal, which was Lopes' 24th marker of the year. That goal allowed was the first in five games for the Bethel defense and goaltender Massimo Collu-Marchese.

Sophomore midfielder Erick Rosas tied the score up at 1-1 in the 71st minute. He took a feed from Joseph Omondi and gave the Bethel fans some hope with time running out.

The Tournament's Most Valuable Player, Vila Boa did not waste any time as the extra period started. He took a long mid-field pass from Armando Orozco and beat the goalie to the ball in the box before nailing the game-winner.

The game had a physical style with 32 fouls whistled and seven yellow cards issued.

The Wildcats also garnered several awards:

Felix Obilio was named NAIA All-American Second Team as a mid-fielder. Receiving NAIA All-American Honorable Mention was Massimo Collu-Marchese.

2008 NAIA Men's Soccer All-Tournament Team included forward Mario Vila Boa, midfielder Felix Obilio, midfielder Armondo Orozco, defender Keith Brown and defender Joseph Omondi.

Mario Vila Boa was selected as the Offensive Player of the Tournament and was also named the Tournament Most Valuable Player.