By Dylan Vazzano
Menlo Sports Information
Menlo's first ever trip to the NAIA National Tournament ended in heartbreaking defeat, as the Oaks lost, 1-0, in double overtime of their opening round game against host Southern Polytechnic State on Saturday.
Jumol Harewood found the back of the net to send the Runnin' Hornets into the Sweet 16 on Tuesday against Bethel, which defeated Montreat, 6-1, in another opening round match.
Menlo survived a swarm of Southern Poly attacks. Harewood took 10 shots overall and the Hornets dominated action most of the day.
Junior goalkeeper Alex Palomarez, who had 10 saves on the day, warded off eversy attack through the first 108 minutes of play.
"Believe it or not, each chance built up our confidence," said Palomarez, the Cal Pac Player of the Year. "As we stopped them, my confidence kept going up and I saw that in the defense too."
The potential for the Oaks to break the scoreless tie seemed more likely after a second half SPSU red card spelled trouble for the Hornets. With 30 minutes left in regulation, Diego Nicholson picked up his second yellow of the match, resulting in a red card that allowed Menlo to play a man up for the duration of the game.
Despite the man-advantage, the Oaks were still forced to play lock down defense as the Hornets maintained an offensive mindset.
Although Menlo dropped the intense battle to put a cap on their 2011 season, the Oaks accomplished quite a bit.
"From when we started in August, getting to the National Tournament was definitely a goal of ours," Palomarez said. "We knew we had to put in a lot of work, but the team saw what we needed to get done and obviously everyone contributed. I am proud to accomplish what we set out for."
The Oaks finish the season with an overall mark of 13-4-1 and the Cal Pac Conference championship. The Oaks had an 11-game winning streak stopped in the contest.