SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Texas Lutheran Men's Soccer captured its first Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship with a 3-1 victory Sunday over Colorado College.
The Bulldogs' conference title comes 17 years and one day after its first men's soccer championship, won in 2002 in the American Southwest Conference with Head Coach Eddie Salazar as a central defender on the squad.
The championship victory, TLU's 15th of the season, set a new school record for wins in a single season. TLU improved to 15-5 overall. CC dropped to 14-6 overall.
After a scoreless first half at McGinlay Field on the Trinity University campus, TLU erupted for three second-half goals against Colorado College.
Bulldog senior Cameron Townes (Cypress/Cypress Ranch) gave TLU the 1-0 lead with a goal in the 50th minute.
Sophomore forward Nicolas Medina (Houston/St. Pius X) pushed the TLU advantage to 2-0 with a shot in the 60th minute, and sophomore forward Luis Green (Monterrey, Mexico/Smithson Valley) jumped the TLU lead to 3-0 with an unassisted goal in the 77th minute.
In his 14th season as the Bulldogs' head coach, Salazar has TLU in the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Championship for a second time in school history.
"For those that know me, they know how much this program means to me," said Salazar, flanked by Green and defender Lalo Lopez-Rivera in a post-match interview. "And whenever we look at the joy that (the players) can have and see that hard work come all together in two days, it took a long season to get here. And the humility that (Lopez-Rivera and Green) showed and the rest of the team, that is why we are here."
Lopez-Rivera (Round Rock/Stony Point) and Green were named the SCAC Championship Defensive and Offensive Most Valuable Players, respectively.
Lopez-Rivera, a four-year starter, guided a Bulldog defensive effort that allowed just one goal in 180 minutes of tournament action. TLU defeated Trinity 2-0 on Saturday in the SCAC semifinal round. Lopez-Rivera also assisted on the first goal of the championship match, scored by Townes.
In Lopez-Rivera's first year with the team, in 2016, the Bulldogs went 7-12-1 overall and lost in the SCAC Championship semifinal to Colorado College. Three years after that lost, Lopez-Rivera and the Bulldogs hoisted an SCAC Championship trophy for the first time.
"Man, it has gotten way better," said Lopez-Rivera, when asked to reflect on his soccer journey at TLU. "From the start, the first (SCAC tournament) we had, we fell short. And finally we did it, man, after four years of working hard. With this coach by our side, we did it all together."
Lopez-Rivera has played in 76 career matches as a Bulldog, and now he will have the chance to play in No. 77 with an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
TLU's only other appearance in the NCAA tournament came in 2002, when the Bulldogs fell 3-0 to Trinity in an NCAA first-round match hosted by TLU at Gustafson Field.
The 2019 Division III men's soccer bracket will be announced on at 12:30 p.m. central (1:30 p.m. eastern) on Monday. The bracket will be revealed in a live selection show available on NCAA.com.
In the SCAC final, Green scored for the 20th time in 2019, extending his TLU DIII-era records for goals and points (43).
Green is now two goals from tying Ariel Larre for the most single-season goals in TLU history. Larre had 22 goals and five assists (49 points) in 1994.
Green has scored 38 goals in 38 career matches.
"It's the grit, and everybody working together," said Green when asked what made this Bulldog championship team special. "Everybody works hard. We train harder than any other team. Consistency is everything. I just have to thank (Coach Salazar). He is the best coach out there. Without him, we wouldn't be anything."
The goal by Townes was his 10th of the season and the 21st of his four-year career. The goal by Medina was his fifth of the year and the 12th of his career
Colorado College held a slight edge in total shots, 15-10, but TLU led in shots on goal 6-5.
Bulldog freshman keeper Caleb Weed (San Antonio/Warren) made four saves in goal.
Colorado College's lone goal came on a penalty kick in the 82nd minute. Griffin Meyer scored for the Tigers and had three total shots on the day.