Bobcats Advance on PKs: Paradise Lifts Lees-McRae to NCAA DII National Championship Match

Bobcats Advance on PKs:  Paradise Lifts Lees-McRae to NCAA DII National Championship Match
Box score

TAMPA, FLA. -- Senior Florida native, Sean Paradise, had five saves, including a penalty kick in regulation and a save in the shootout, to take the Lees-McRae College Bobcats to the NCAA Division II Men's Soccer National Championship with a shootout win over the Lewis University Flyers Thursday afternoon.

Paradise came up big for the big for the Bobcats at the end of the first half when Lewis' Acxer Eduardo attempted a near post shot, but Paradise turned it away to keep the game scoreless at the half.

In the second half in the 58th minute, a Bobcat hand ball gave the Flyers a penalty kick, but Paradise made a diving save to his right on Robert McGowan's attempt to keep the game scoreless. The penalty kick saved turned out to be the second biggest save of Paradise's career as a Bobcat - his biggest save was yet to come.

In the 79th minute, Nestor Hernandez collected a punt and scored to put the Flyers up 1-0, and one minute later, Hernandez received a pass from Charlie Bucio and buried his second goal of the game to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead.

But the Bobcats didn't give up and rallied in the 85th minute when Grant Elder, who came off the five minutes before, took a pass from Sam Kennedy and beat the Flyers' keeper high to the far post to cut the lead to 2-1.

Two minutes later, Lee Squires, a two-time All-American who missed all but seven matches, buried the game tying goal. Squires found himself on the back post one-on-one after a Jamie Bladen shot was blocked by a Flyer defender.

In the overtime periods neither team was able to end the match on a golden goal forcing a shootout.

The Bobcats went first in the shootout and Richard Guffens buried his attempt, and Paradise made the save on McGowan's attempt for Lewis' first attempt for the biggest save in his four year career for the Bobcats.

"It was the same guy that attempted the penalty kick on me in regulation," Paradise said. "I knew he wouldn't try to go the same way on me, and I saw him open his hips and go to his left my right."

David Palmer buried his attempt and was followed by Squires, Berin Boracic and Jamie Bladen how sealed the win on his attempt that he tucked in the left corner. Bladen's game-winning goal lifted the Bobcats to the Final Four in the team's 1-0 win over Tampa.

Lees-McRae outshot Lewis, 19-11, and held a 9-8 corner kick advantage.

Paradise's five saves earned his 15th win of the season. Going back to last season he has saved seven of the last 15 penalty kicks against him.

For a school of 670 students, one of the smallest in the NCAA Division II, the Bobcats have put themselves in the title game. One-hundred plus people packed into Williams Gymnasium in Banner Elk on the campus to watch the game.

The Bobcats will face Fort Lewis Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Pepin Field in Tampa and will be aired on CBS College Sports tomorrow at 4 p.m.! This is the first time in the history of the school in NCAA competition a team has competed for a national title!