CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For four years, Hunter Moles chased - without success - state titles as a basketball and soccer standout at South Charleston. But that's OK because, as a freshman goalkeeper, he's won a national title at WVU Tech.Moles did his part, stopping three shots, including a key save with less than 20 minutes left, and senior forward Dennis Fuerst assisted on one goal and scored the game-winner Saturday afternoon, leading Tech to a 2-1 victory over Maine Fort Kent in the men's championship game of the USCAA national tournament at Trace Fork.The top-seeded Golden Bears (18-2-1) won three games in three days to capture the 10-team United States Collegiate Athletic Association event staged at both Trace Fork and Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium."It feels great,'' Moles said. "This is like my home field. I lose my last high school game here on PKs, but we win a national championship here, so it really feels great.''
Fuerst's goal, which came with 17:50 left in the match, was his sixth score of the tournament.With the score tied at 1, Tech got a throw-in along the right side, precipitating a scrum for possession in front of the Fort Kent goal. Raul Martin got his leg on it for Tech before Fuerst blasted the ball into the net from close range."I think he wanted to shoot it,'' Fuerst said of Martin, "so it was a little bit lucky. It was our only chance in the second half, but I think we deserve it because we lost the same game last year when we were the better team. But that doesn't matter anymore.''
The Golden Bears fell to Briarcliffe 2-1 in the USCAA finals last year in Asheville, N.C.Saturday's match was a bit different than the teams' regular-season meeting at Trace Fork on Oct. 14, won 4-3 by Tech off a corner kick with six seconds remaining."It's just playoff soccer,'' said Fort Kent coach Bill Ashby. "Everything gets tight. The regular season, it's more pretty and in the playoffs, it becomes more ugly soccer. Limited chances and play conservatively. But it was a good match.''Tech jumped in front 1-0 with 14:39 left in the first half when Fuerst advanced the ball down the left side during a half-field attack. His crossing pass was headed into the goal by Glenroy Miller, who had subbed into the game just moments earlier.
The Bengals (17-3) got the equalizer with 32:14 to go in the second half as Ben Kluvers headed in a cross by Kyle Robin. But Fort Kent couldn't capitalize on the momentum shift, in part because of an ensuing injury timeout."We had the big stoppage in play there for five, six minutes,'' Ashby said, "and that gave [Tech] a chance to get their legs back under them and get organized. It really turned the flow of play and it was our injury, too, so it was unfortunate.''Fort Kent's last good chance came with 19:45 left when Kevin Dionne flew in from the left side and got the ball at virtually point-blank range, but was denied by Moles.Two minutes later, the Golden Bears were on the board and in the lead thanks to Fuerst.
"You can never doubt this team,'' Moles said. "Playing back there in goal, I hope they score because I can't really score, but they do it every game for me. They always put goals on the scoreboard for me.''Tech led in shots 17-13 and corner kicks 7-2. Fort Kent keeper Jamie Cleland had four saves to Moles' three. Fuerst was selected as the MVP of the championship event and Moles was joined on the all-tournament team by Golden Bear teammates Miller and Joe Jackson."It was an awesome season this year,'' Fuerst said, "because last year, we were really disappointed and we knew the only way we can make it better is win the final - and that's what we did with all the fans here. It's great.''In the women's final, also at Trace Fork, Ariane Laberge-Pelletier scored a sudden-death goal 5:47 into overtime to give No. 1 seed Fort Kent a 3-2 victory over Daemen.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.