Jackson Lifts Lynn to Men's Soccer National Title

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. --  Freshman Leon Jackson scored the first goal of his collegiate career on Sunday, tallying in the 80th minute to break a 1-1 deadlock and propel Lynn University to a 2-1 victory over Cal-Chico giving the Fighting Knights the 2003 Division II Men's Soccer National Championship.

The national title is LU's first in NCAA men's soccer and the school's 6th NCAA title of all time.  The men's soccer program had previously claimed NAIA titles in 1987 and 1991, two of the 17 all-around national championships Lynn University owns.  The victory also gave the Sunshine State Conference, the league LU joined in 1997, its 56th National title of all time.

"We rehearsed (the winning play) many times in training,"  Jackson, a Bloxwich, England native, said.  "I was just in the right place at the right time.  This is a dream come true, scoring my first goal and winning a national title."

Jackson, a defender who has appeared in 19 games thus far and making just six starts, came off the bench in the first half and remained on the field in the second.  He took a feed from junior Mark Dunkerley off a corner kick and knocked the ball past CSU-Chico (21-5-1) goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek to become the hero of the afternoon for the Knights.  Playing in place of the injured Liam Bull, sophomore netminder Kevin Street came up big for LU, recording one save, benefiting from another staunch defensive effort from the Knight defense.

"This has really been a long road," LU coach Shaun Pendleton said.  "This couldn't have been done without the support, loyalty and commitment of our administration.  This victory is not just for our 18 players and our coaching staff, it is for the entire Lynn University family."

The Knights (22-0-1) opened the scoring in the 4th minute as Fernando Villalobos one-touched a cross from Andy Hirst who received the ball from senior Mark Melling.  The tally was LU's third-quickest goal of 2003 and marked the 7th time Lynn has found the back of the net within the match's first 10 minutes.  Cal-Chico wound up tying the contest in the 37th minute as Jesse Grigg scored an unassisted goal.  The teams retreated to their lockerrooms at intermission deadlocked at 1-1.

"I thought we came out playing our best but Chico kind of took over towards the end of the first half,"  Pendleton said.  "In the second half, we played like we were on a mission.  National championships are never easy to win and today was difficult but that's how it should be.  We talked all season about working as one and coming together and for the final 45 minutes that is what we did."

Lynn finished the match by outshooting the Wildcats 6-4 while attempting eight corners as compared to the one taken by its Golden State adversary.  The match was played in temperatures in the low 40's and witnessed ny an announced crowd of 198.

The game ended the careers of five LU players as Tom Davies, Ross Lumsden, Melling, Villalobos and Garthfield Whyte all took the field in the Blue and White for the final time. 

Lynn players Hirst, Melling and Whyte all were selected to the All-Tournament team with Hirst being named the tournament's Offensive MVP and Lumsden picking up Defensive MVP accoloades.

The Knights finish the season with an 11-match winning streak and a 27-match unbeaten string.  The Knights and Wildcats contested the third California-Florida men's Division II final in the past four seasons.  The Knights, just as Tampa did when it won it all in 2001, downed Dowling to advance to the finals.