Courtesy: CBU
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National Champions!
Courtesy: CBU  
Release: 12/03/2011
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KISSIMMEE, Fla. --- Late last night, California Baptist University Head Coach Ryan Jorden pulled Michael Salazar aside and gave him some good-natured ribbing.

Jorden politely reminded the freshman forward of three things--he hadn't scored a goal in the tournament, he forgot to turn his uniform in to get washed after Thursday's semifinal win, and he had a rather "pricey" meal at the team's pregame dinner an hour earlier.

The Lancers' fourth-year coach jokingly wanted to know how Salazar intended to pay him back, and the Pacific West Conference Freshman of the Year paid his coach back in the best way imaginable.

On the biggest stage of the season, Salazar scored twice, the second one coming with just nine minutes remaining, to help top-seed CBU to a 2-1 win over Geneva Saturday, giving the Lancers their first-ever National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Championship.

"What's special about this one is the three seniors who have been here the last four years and have been a part of the growth and development of this program," said Jorden. "For them to win this championship and be rewarded for their dedication and perseverance is fantastic. They're the ones who have done the work and led the way for us to get to this point."

All three seniors played and performed well in their final game. Willie Rupert, who started every single one of the Lancers' games the past four years, was named the tournament's most outstanding player. Osvaldo Bastida and Ruben Sanchez both helped the Lancers control possession.

It was a freshman, though, who found the net.

"He's had a typical freshman year with its ups and downs, but for him to score twice and play his absolute best game on the biggest stage of the season is impressive," said Jorden. "He displayed the qualities that we love in him and make us excited about his future in this program."

Salazar, who dominated the first half on the offensive end, put the Lancers on the board in the 18th minute when he made a brilliant play, splitting a pair of defenders on the counter. As he got by the defenders and into the area, his shot deflected off all-tournament keeper Bryan Butler and into the net for a 1-0 Lancer lead.

The Lancers outshot the NCAA Division III Golden Tornadoes 15-4, but Geneva equalized in the 53rd minute when Jake McCracken, who scored in all three games and was named the tournament's top offensive player, headed in a corner kick.

With precious minutes ticking away and overtime seeming like more of a real possibility, Salazar struck again in the 81st minute. Alex Anderson laid off a ball to a trailing Salazar, who narrowly beat a Geneva defender to it. His shot flipped over Butler, who was off his line, and into the net, sending the Lancer faithful, which included the Lancers' volleyball and women's soccer teams, both of which had already won NCCAA titles just hours earlier, into a frenzy.

The Lancers killed off the final nine minutes and rushed the field with a euphoric celebration fitting for a newly-crowned national champion.

"It's hard playing three times in four days, and it's a lot of work to play against good teams," said Jorden. "There is a lot of quality required, and I thought we played well each time out. We set out at the beginning of the year to win our conference, which we did, and the come here and perform well. I think we accomplished both."

Ruper, Brian Ahn, Carlos Figueroa and Jonathan Garcia were all named to the all-tournament team, while Ahn was named the tournament's most outstanding defensive player.

The Lancers conclude their finest season in program history at 17-5-1, setting a program-record for wins in a season, winning a PacWest title in their first season in the conference and culminating in the program's first-ever national championship.


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