ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – The 2013 Vanguard men's soccer players made history on Saturday, as the unranked Lions' squad (2-2) upset NAIA No. 1-ranked University of Mobile at the Orange Beach Sportsplex. No other team in the program has knocked off the nation's best, and the 2013 boys did it in dominant fashion, shutting out the Rams, 3-0, while allowing just two shots on goal.
For Vanguard's 15 returners, the chance to square off with the national leader was more than just a way to prove themselves, but an opportunity for redemption that they took full advantage of, having known the regret of falling in 2012 to the NAIA's then-top-ranked team, Lindsey Wilson, by the narrowest of margins (1-0).
Luckily for the Pride, the word narrow could not be used to describe what happened on the field against Mobile. A pair of newcomers teamed up to put Vanguard on the scoreboard 14 minutes into the affair. Freshman Juan Arellano (Hawthorne, Calif.) sent a deep ball to sophomore Angel Maldonado (Inglewood, Calif.), who nimbly went far post past the Ram's keeper, Xavier Audergon.
Twenty minutes later, two returners got in on the action, as junior Edgar Hernandez (Santa Ana, Calif.) hit sophomore Luke Kadillak (San Diego, Calif.) on the break, where Kadillak out-maneuvered Audergon, who had come out to challenge. The result was Kadillak's third goal of the season and a 2-0 advantage for the Lions at the the break.
Vanguard put the nail in the coffin five minutes into the second half via an Arellano goal. Sophomore Kelvin Fares (Mesa, Ariz.) sent a long pass up the field to junior Jesus Fregoso (La Puente, Calif.) who found Arellano, where Arellano finished top shelf.
Defense did the rest, and did it well, as the Pride midfield and backline allowed just one shot on goal through the final 35 minutes. With the stop, sophomore Luca Licciardi (Sparks, Nev.) registered the shutout, moving to 2-2 on the year. He managed two saves in the contest.
"Everything went right for us tonight," Licciardi said. "Our focus and intensity was world-class as well as our finishing. We had three quality goals that kept us ahead the whole match. I'm so proud of my back line and my midfield's positioning tonight. We kept the passing lanes closed, and handled what we needed to in order to limit shots on frame. Tonight's performance was an awesome way to come back from last night's loss. I could not be more proud of my team!"
Vanguard outshot Mobile 14-8 and held a 10-3 edge in corner kicks.
"This is one of the biggest wins in the program's history," Director of Soccer Randy Dodge said. "We have never taken down the number one team in the country on the road before. With that being said, we started eight underclassmen, and we are in the process of changing the culture of our program. We have played well in every game and are getting better every time. I cannot say enough about all 28 boys in the program!"
Next up for the Blue and Gold is a long trip back to the west coast where the Lions hope to build on the momentum started in the south. Vanguard has Bethesda University scheduled for September 20 at 4:00 pm on the road.
The future is uncertain, but Vanguard's senior captain, Bryan Ponce (Santa Ana, Calif.), who experienced the 2012 southern road-trip heartbreak, is optimistic about the direction that his squad is headed.
"Being a senior and captain of this team, I've been fortunate to experience a lot of highs and lows within my time in the program," Ponce said. "Our win tonight solidifies the effort and passion from the trainers, coaching staff, Vanguard and our players as a whole in trying to turn this program into a perennial power. Today we took a major step in reaching that goal by beating the number one team in the nation. I am very proud and blessed to be able to share this journey with such a special group of guys that I can call my brothers. It's only the beginning and I'm confident that we will push forward and have many more special moments like this in the future."