Contact: Jeff Sattora
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Despite a late goal from freshman Cristian Arboleda, the Cleveland State Vikings were unable to overcome a 2-0 halftime deficit and fell 2-1 Thursday afternoon to the Michigan State Spartans in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State got on the board early in this one at the 12:50 mark to take the lead. After winning the ball on the right side from a Cleveland State defender, Nick Wilson took the ball and crossed it in front of the net, which was then headed in by Adam Montague to give the Spartans a 1-0 advantage.
Although CSU was able to put pressure on the Michigan State goal at the 16 minute mark, getting pressure on the box, they were unable to tie it up.
The Spartans did not wait around to push their lead as Michigan State's Adam Montague returned the favor along with Kevin Cope to Wilson at 19:35 mark as Wilson was able to hit the back of the net this time to push the lead. The Spartans passed the ball in on a free kick, and while CSU goalie Brad Stuver saved the first attempt, the ball bounced back out to the Spartans and Wilson was able to find the back of the net to take that 2-0 lead.
For Vikings' Head Coach Ali Kazemaini, who helped this Viking team reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1980, allowing two goals in the first 20 minutes of play could have been impacted by the program's 30 plus year NCAA drought.
"I thought we came out a little tentative, that's a sign of the first time in the tournament and not really sure what mentality to expect," Kazemaini said. "That cost us but you got to give the guys a lot of credit, we woke up and hung in there (in the second half)."
Hanging in there is exactly what the Vikings did despite the 2-0 halftime deficit and strong play from Michigan State. CSU played hard all 90 minutes.
The Vikings continued to push at the goal and were able to earn a penalty kick by Admir Suljevic in the 69th minute. The shot was saved out to Aaron Adkins who missed a shot wide on the rebound ending back to back great CSU chances.
Even with the penalty miss, CSU was able to cut the deficit in half on the Arboleda goal from 18 yards out in the 87th minute off a pass from Alfonso Sandoval. But, unfortunately for Vikings' faithful the team wasn't able to cut it any closer.
With the tough loss the Vikings ended the 2012 campaign with an 11-6-3 overall record and Horizon League tournament title.
For Kazemaini, although the loss hurts, the progress the program has made is undeniable.
"We were so far down, people had no confidence out there," Kazemaini said on when he took over the program in 2006. "Hopefully this will change people's minds when they are coming here, they are not coming here as a second choice anymore, they are coming to a program that's been successful."
"Hopefully it raises the expectations of what it takes to play for Cleveland State now," he added. "The players that are here can wear that jersey with a little more pride."
As the Vikings move forward in the years ahead, this team will always be remembered as the one that brought this program back to the NCAA tournament level. With the foundation this group has built there is no where to go but up.