CLINTON – The Saints are headed to Alabama.
After sneaking into the 54th annual NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship with the eighth and final at-large berth, the #14-seeded Saints made good on their opportunity and posted a 3-2 victory over Benedictine College (Kan.) on Saturday night in Clinton.
Freshman striker Tim Krautheim got AU off to a fast start when he took a pass from Liverpool, England-native Craig Butcher and placed his 15th goal of the season inside the left post to give Ashford a 1-0 lead just six minutes into the contest.
Benedictine would fire 12 of the next 13 shots during the first half, but the home team took its one-goal advantage into the halftime break.
The Ravens locked the battle up at one-all just seconds into the second frame when Joe Sbarro netted a pass from Troy McKerrell for his 18th goal of the season.
But just two minutes later, Krautheim struck again. The Langenhagen, Germany-native took a feed off of the head of junior Lucas Almeida and beat the keeper for AU's second goal of the evening. Almeida's assist was his eighth of the season.
Almeida added an insurance goal in the 69th minute, a goal that would prove to be the game winner as Benedictine's Alex Lawrence scored in the 80th minute to make it 3-2 in favor of AU.
Fortunately, Ashford's stout defense played like its season was on the line Saturday night, stopping a final burst from the Ravens to win the contest, 3-2.
"I'm so proud of our team," Head Coach Richard Markham said following the contest. "We went up 1-0 and kind of went into a defensive shell. I told the guys at halftime that we had to open it up, one wasn't going to be enough."
The Ravens outshot Ashford 18-10, which included a 10-7 clip in shots on goal, and took 11 of the 13 corner kicks throughout the 90 minutes of action.
Ashford goalkeeper Patrick Kinsella turned away eight Raven opportunities to cap a perfect season at home for the Saints.
"Pat was phenomenal in goal tonight," said Markham. "We brought him in earlier this year as a highly-touted recruit and it has paid off all season."
Benedictine finishes the season with a 12-3-4 record.
The Saints move on and now have a date with #3-seeded Concordia University (Calif.) at the Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex in Montgomery, Alabama. Kickoff is set for Monday, Nov. 26 at 1:30 p.m.
Concordia downed Our Lady of the Lake (Texas), 1-0, Saturday afternoon.