BOCA RATON, Fla. – After surrendering the tying goal with less than four minutes to play, Chris Hellmann put Lynn University's fourth-ranked men's soccer team ahead for good to claim the 32nd Sunshine State Conference title in school history. The Fighting Knights knocked off ninth-ranked Saint Leo 3-2 as Hellmann, Matthias Jaenicke and Nikolas Zlatarits tallied goals. Lynn improves to 12-1-1 overall and 6-0-1 in league play and will now host the 2014 Sunshine State Conference Championship as the No. 1 seed.
The men's soccer program has accounted for 11 of Lynn's 32 league crowns, making them the second-most successful program in SSC history. Tampa owns 16 men's soccer titles but Lynn's 11 titles since joining the SSC in 1998 are tops among all schools. The Fighting Knights have won five of the last eight regular season titles and will be looking for their first tournament title since 2008.
Saint Leo (10-2-2, 6-2-0 SSC) had come back from 2-0 deficits on two separate occasions already this season and made it a third when Alexander Racca scored from just outside the penalty box on a free kick in the 86th minute. The Lions celebration would be short lived, though.
Lynn went on the offensive immediately following the goal and its aggressiveness paid off as the team earned its eighth penalty kick of the season when the ball went off the hand of a Lions' defender. Hellmann, the nation's leader scorer, stood over the ball, slipped on his approach but buried his 17th goal of the season to put his team in position for the victory.
The Fighting Knights had several chances to add to its goal total on the evening but was thwarted by Manuel Schoenhuber nine times and the Saint Leo defense once. Schowenhuber recorded four breakaway saves, including one from Hellmann in-between Lynn scores, and three from Nicolas Mortensen.
Jaenicke put the home squad on top 1-0 in the 33rd minute of play when the Lions sent a square ball across the top of the box and he made them pay with a laser shot through traffic towards the left post. It was his second goal of the season.
A Hellmann miss did not deter his confidence as he played a role in Lynn's second goal. He took in a long punt near midfield and quickly found Mortensen to his left. Mortensen chipped a ball over the Lions's back line and Zlatarits did not miss with a quick attack past Shoenhuber for his second goal of the year.
Lynn outshot Saint Leo 24-9 with an even 6-6 mark in corner kicks.
The Fighting Knights still have one conference match remaining, a tilt with Nova Southeastern on Wednesday, October 29, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., but have locked up the No. 1 seed in the Sunshine State Conference Tournament. Lynn will host the conference championship Friday and Sunday, November 7th and 9th. Game times are TBA.
Fans can watch Wednesday's game at LynnFightingKnights.com and receive in-game updates by following @Lynn_Knights on Twitter and Instagram.