BOCA RATON, Fla. – A quick goal to start the match and another just after halftime is all Lynn University's top-seeded men's soccer team needed to knock off No. 5 seed Nova Southeastern in the semifinals of the Sunshine State Conference Championship. Chris Hellmann added his league-leading 20th goal of the season and the Fighting Knights defense logged their second consecutive clean sheet to help head coach John Rootes log his 100th victory with the Blue & White. Lynn will play Florida Tech for the conference tournament title on Sunday, November 9, at 1 p.m.
Hellmann showed the capacity crowd why he was honored as the SSC Player & Offensive Player of the Year with a magical goal 10:18 into the match. The sophomore striker collected a long pass from Matthias Jaenicke near the top of the box as NSU keeper Andrea Giombetti came rushing out to make a stop. Hellmann evaded the initial save attempt, took a touch and ripped a shot past a small wall of Sharks' defenders for his seventh game-winning goal of the season.
Nova Southeastern (6-9-2) did not lie down, though, as it came after Lynn (14-1-1) and put the fourth-ranked team in the nation on its heels for the final 10 minutes of play in the half. Lucas Fancello was forced into a corner kick save, one of two on the night, but the Blue & White were able to hold on to a 1-0 advantage heading into the locker room.
Simon Gubisch deflated the Sharks hopes of a second consecutive upset, scoring almost five minutes into the second half. Hellmann commanded a legion of defenders through the middle of the field and the Cologne, Germany, product easily slipped a ball through the defense to Gubisch, who was burning up the sidelines. Gubisch sped by his defender and beat Giombetti to the near post for his second goal this season and seventh of his three-year career.
The Fighting Knights' defense came on strong towards the end with the Sharks eyeing a comeback, holding NSU to only one shot on target in the half and two overall for the match. Nova Southeastern's lone shot came on an attempt from 30-yards out, which Fancello made a punch save over the crossbar.
Florida Tech came from a goal down against Saint Leo with 10 minutes to play to tie the score before eventually winning with 51 seconds remaining in the first overtime. FIT and Lynn met earlier in the season with the Blue & White taking a 2-1 victory in Melbourne, Fla.
Coach Rootes (100-27-8) has the second-most victories in program history, trailing only the late Shaun Pendleton (293-42-12). For his 27-year career, Rootes is 384-121-30 in stops at Southern New Hampshire (1988-97), Clayton State (1998-03), SCAD (2004-07) and Lynn (2008-present). He won the 1989 NCAA Division II National Championship with Southern New Hampshire and claimed Lynn's 20th national title, and the men's soccer program's fourth, in 2012.
Lynn is looking to claim both SSC regular season and tournament titles with a victory on Sunday. The last time an institution was able to accomplish that feat was Lynn in 2008.
Fans can watch the Sunshine State Conference Championship finals match live at LynnFightingKnights.com and receive in-game updates by following @Lynn_Knights on Twitter and Instagram.