Lee Wins First Gulf South Soccer Championship
Sunday, November 17, 2019
Yotam Balbul headed home the lone goal of the match in the 81st minute to give the Lee men's soccer team its first Gulf South Conference Championship in program history with a 1-0 shutout of West Florida on Sunday afternoon from the Ashton Brosnaham Park.
Balbul connected off a corner kick from Jared McWhorter to give the Flames the advantage late in the title game. Lee kept the clean sheet over the final nine minutes and will now make the program's first appearance in the NCAA National Championship.
Senior goalkeeper Daniel Hrenko posted his ninth shutout of the season and finished with three saves.
"My emotions are all over the place right now.
I'm so excited and I've worked my whole life and all four years extremely hard for this moment," said Hrenko as he was holding the championship trophy. "We made some tactical adjustments mid-way through the season and we dedicated ourselves to getting clean sheets and I knew that I was going to all come together."
Balbul was named the GSC Tournament MVP. He scored Lee's lone goal in their 1-0 win in the quarterfinals and was part of the back line that yielded just one score, an own-goal, through three tournament matches.
"I wanted this so much for our seniors. To get this for them was huge and this is just another big step for our program. Everyone around our program invests so much time and energy so to see it pay off on the field today is incredible," said third-year head coach Derek Potteiger. "These guys have a lot to be proud of and they will go down in the record books for this accomplishment. I'm very proud right now."
Joining Balbul on the all-tournament team were defenders Jonah Bryan and Samir Williams along with forward Samaan Williams, who scored both goals in Lee's semifinal victory on Friday.
West Florida held a 14-8 advantage in shots with both teams putting three on target. Jihad Gomes had two saves while allowing the one goal in net for West Florida.
The Argos held a 7-2 lead in shots in the first half but Lee was able to earn three corner kicks as both teams had limit scoring opportunities. The best scoring chance came on a Will Carter cross to Sagi Rada who sailed his shot high over the net with 8:30 left in the half.
The Flames improve to 12-4-4 on the year and will await tomorrow's NCAA Selection Show to see where they will play to open the National Championship Tournament on Friday. West Florida falls to 13-2-3 on the year.