Fresno Pacific, California Baptist square off for NCCAA Division I men’s soccer championship

Alex Anderson KISSIMMEE, Fla. – For the second consecutive year, the Pacific West Conference will lay claim to the National Christian College Athletic Association Division I men’s soccer champion.

The only question is which PacWest team will carry the hardware back from Kissimmee, Fla. – the reigning champion Lancers of California Baptist or the Sunbirds of Fresno Pacific.

The two PacWest teams will battle for the NCCAA National Championship at 5:30 p.m. EST today (Saturday, Dec. 1) roughly 3,000 miles from their respective California fields for the right to claim a national title.

Although neither Fresno Pacific (17-4-1) nor California Baptist (15-5-2) is eligible for the NCAA II National Championship Tournament until they complete the journey through the Division II process, the battle for the NCCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship is paramount for these two faith-based institutions and PacWest rivals.

The winner not only gets a national championship banner, but also will have bragging rights within the league as they meet for the third time this season.

Fans can watch the game live at http://www.tourbeausportsgroup.com/.

The two teams first met on Sept. 13 in a PacWest league game that the Lancers rallied to win 4-2. Fresno Pacific scored the games first two goals, but California Baptist unleashed four unanswered scores  - including two by Alex Anderson – over the final 51 minutes to earn the victory.

Paul Islas The two teams would not meet again for another two months on Nov. 17 in the NCCAA West Region title game at Fresno Pacific, but this time the Sunbirds scored three goals over the first 73:17 – including scores by Chris Young and Pail Islas less than a minute apart – to beat the Lancers 3-1 and earn a berth in the NCCAA National Tournament.

California Baptist received an at-large berth from the NCCAA and at the outset of the eight-team bracket it seemed the Lancers and Sunbirds were on a collision course for a national championship bout.

Fresno Pacific blanked McMurry in the quarterfinals on Nov. 28 by the score of 3-0 thanks to goals by Alvaro Nogales, Islas (right photo) and Bruno Pessoa in the first 48 minutes.

California Baptist smothered Roberts Wesleyan out of Rochester, N.Y., 4-0 on the same day on a goal and an assist by Marc Hope, and goals from Jonathan Fausto, Anderson (top photo) and Braedan Pilcher.

The Lancers used an Anderson goal in the 86th minute on Nov. 29 to blank Union (TN) 1-0, while Fresno Pacific needed a 5-4 penalty-kick decision vs. Palm Beach Atlantic to advance to the championship round.

The Sunbirds trailed 2-0 in the game until Nogales and Luke Tyler scored in the 65th and 84th minute, respectively, to force a scoreless overtime and ultimately a shootout.