Finally, it had happened. Despite being outplayed throughout the game, the University of Nebraska-Omaha (10-5-4) made the most of their opportunity and were positioned to win a league championship against the University of Denver. It started when a free kick by the Mavs Fazlo Alihodzic met the head of Jacob Weiler and nestled into the Denver goal in the 57th minute. All the Mavs had to do was hold off a charging Denver team who were unable to create a goal the first 70 minutes of the game.
But DU found another gear.
In the 74th minute, Blake Elder and Graham Smith worked the ball to Andre Shinyashiki who finished in front of a crowded goal mouth to pull the Pios even. The pressure continued to mount on Omaha as DU took solid control of the midfield and moved players forward. Denver continued to create scoring opportunities but UNO’s goalkeeper, Joseph Ghitis, was steady all day long.
As time wound down in regulation, a more aggressive Denver squad moved forward again. Andre Shinyashiki, DU’s leading scorer took a header from Sam Hamilton and Chandler Crosswait with just 41 seconds to go and pounded the ball into net for his second goal and gave DU a late 2-1 lead. Denver took the ball down the field and ran out the clock as the Maverick players dropped to the turf in exhaustion.
DU outshot the Mavericks 18-6 for the game and controlled the tempo of play but still Omaha gave them all they could handle. Omaha had a great effort on their side and rock-solid goalkeeping. For the match, UNO seemed satisfied to find goals through set pieces or long balls down the field while Denver used ball control and short passes to create their best opportunities.
DU finished the season and conference playoff run undefeated and await their seeding for the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced during the NCAA Tournament selection show on Monday. This is their fourth consecutive conference championship. Star defender Kortney Ford will return to the field from his red card in the Summit League semifinals. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which DU doesn’t host their first Tournament match. Whether that will be in the first our second round remains to be seen.