CBU had its fair share of adversity this year and no more than Saturday night. But champions figure out a way to overcome, and CBU figured out a way to overcome in the most dramatic way imaginable.
Trailing 2-0 with 34 minutes left, the Lancers roared all the way back and scored three goals in the final 28 minutes capped by Marc Hope's stunning winner with 7.8 seconds left to beat top-seed Fresno Pacific and win the 2012 National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Championship in dramatic fashion.
For a group that a month ago had the PacWest title ripped from them on the final day of the regular season, Saturday's national title is sweet redemption.
"This is awesome," said Hope, who was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player. "This was our goal from day one, and this is great for our seniors. When we went down, we knew we just had to keep working hard and fight back, and that's what this team does."
"For all the stuff we went through this year, they deserve this," said CBU Head Coach Ryan Jorden. "I couldn't be any more proud of the guys."
The Lancers win their second straight NCCAA title, becoming the first team to repeat since East Texas Baptist in 1998-99, and they did it against a Fresno Pacific team they had just lost ton in the regional final two weeks ago.
They conclude their season at 16-5-2.
Fresno Pacific ends its season at 18-5-0.
It's only fitting that a game between these two came down to the final seconds. The Lancers trailed 2-0 and got on the board in the 63rd minute when the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Alex Anderson got a through ball, cut it past FPU keeper Fabian Rangel and tucked it to the far post to cut the deficit in half.
The game seemed destined for overtime with the final seconds literally ticking away, but on their final rush, they pounced.
Anderson got a ball down the left flank and served a cross into the area. Salazar could have played it but he let it go right to Hope, who had nothing but net in his sights. Hope one-timed the winner, sending the Lancers into a frenzy. They killed the final 7.8 seconds and mobbed Hope at midfield in a demonstration of pent-up emotion that Jorden could only describe as disbelief.
"It's a little bit of disbelief, because Fresno Pacific is incredibly good and to fight back from two down is unbelievable," said Jorden. "We've played them three times. We know how good they are. It's just one of those things where you hope he hits the target, and he did."
For the third game this year against the Lancers, Fresno Pacific scored less than six minutes in. Alvaro Nogales finished off a beautiful cross from Gustavo Silva to give the Sunbirds an early fifth-minute lead. It was the Sunbirds' only shot on goal in the first half.
The Lancers had chances, including three good ones in a 20-minute span after the Sunbirds' goal. One went over the bar and another was hit right at the keeper. In the 26th minute, Anderson got in behind the defense, but his shot slipped just wide of the left post.
Then, in the second half, Oliver got dispossessed in the midfield and Paul Islas was off to the races with a breakaway, making it 2-0 in the 57th minute, seemingly putting a stranglehold on the game.
It was not to be, however, as the defending champions proved their mettle.
"When that second goal goes in, 99 percent of the teams in the country are done. They roll over," said Jorden. "All that means to our guys is let's go to work and keep doing what we know to do. We still tried to do it the right way and we were rewarded."
In the end, the Lancers out-shot the high-powered Sunbirds 15-9, including an 8-4 advantage in the second half.