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Men's Soccer - Mon, Dec. 12, 2016 - posted by Seth Preuss
The 2016 squad made it through 14 matches undefeated and secured the best-ever ranking for HIU soccer in 2016
The 2016 squad made it through 14 matches undefeated and secured the best-ever ranking for HIU soccer in 2016

FULLERTON, CA – Another soccer season is in the record books for HIU after the conclusion of the NAIA National Championship in Florida. The Royals received the best-ever ranking in program history and narrowly missed receiving an at-large bid to the tournament after a strong start to their season sputtered at the end due to injury.

Hope International men's soccer set a new mark for the longest undefeated start in the history of the program during the season with a 10-0-4 record after 14 games. After a 9-11 overall mark in 2015 with a 3-7 showing against GSAC teams the Royals bounced back and built on late-season success that carried into the 2016 season.

"The thing I took away from this year compared to rest I've been here – this is one of the closest teams we've had," Coach Lurker said of the team's chemistry on and off the field. "They love each other, they love playing, and they're very competitive so on the field [this season] we had some of the best practices and training sessions we've had ever here at Hope." That chemistry played a large part in the Royals' ability to start off the season in historic fashion.

The Royals opened their season with a 0-0 draw in double overtime against La Sierra – with just 11 players available the Royals had to gut out a tie and then got their first win with a 3-0 final at home against Bethesda.

HIU opened September with a win (1-0, San Francisco State) and a draw (1-1 2OT, Humboldt State) against a pair of NCAA DII programs before ripping off an 8-0 win streak that extended into October. The 8-0 streak included a signature win against then-No. 12 Vanguard University with a 2-1 tally at home on Oct. 8. The win over Vanguard helped push HIU to No. 17 in the NAIA the following week which is the best ranking to date in the history of HIU soccer.

A pair of double-overtime draws on the road at The Master's and Westmont were the final two matches of the 14-game undefeated streak. Then-unranked Biola was able to shut out HIU at home with a 0-2 final at Fullerton College on Oct. 18 but HIU would bounce back with a 2-1 Senior Day win against Arizona Christian four days later.

HIU suffered from injuries to key players late in the season and ended the year on a 0-3 slide with two losses at William Jessup (2-4) and Menlo (1-2, 2OT). HIU was eliminated from the postseason by The Master's for the second time in three seasons with a 0-1 tally in regulation on Nov. 5 at home and did not receive an at-large berth to the NAIA National Championship.

Coach Lurker reflected on the strong start and the similarities to another excellent season in 2014 when HIU won the GSAC Regular Season title, saying "The way I describe this year – not that's its great to compare years – is looking back at the year we won the GSAC. In that year we won league and finished first, we had six games that went to overtime – we won four, lost one and tied one. This year we had five overtime games – we tied four and lost one. If even two of those [results] change we would have won league again and who knows how far we could have gone in playoffs [with a different seed and matchup]."

Coach Lurker continued on to talk about his squad's goals for the year and how he gauged the success of the program, "We had a lot of goals we set throughout the season and I think we met most of them – at the end our most lofty goal was to get into the [NAIA] National Tournament, so if you just base [your assessment] off that obviously we didn't get there. But I think it was a very successful season, a fun group of guys that are anxious [to get back] and just want more. We have something close to 11 seniors next year and we're hoping that can be our breakout year to get into the [NAIA] Tournament."

The Royals outscored opponents 40-17 during the year and obliterated opponents at home with a 28-6 scoring differential – their 40 season goals are third all-time in the history of the program. Cesar Cruz-Martinez (SR/Orange, CA) tied Joel Palomares (SO/Santa Ana, CA) with seven goals apiece for the team lead. Cruz-Martinez also tallied four assists to lead HIU with 18 points to cap his senior season for the Royals.

The Royals established another record for the program after four players were named All-GSAC for their effort on the pitch: Ryan Brown (JR/Fountain Valley, CA), Cruz-Martinez, and Palomares each got a nod for the All-GSAC Team and Thales Serra (SR/Santos, Brazil) led the All-GSAC selections as the Co-Player of the Year. The previous best for the program was three All-GSAC selections in 2014 when the Royals won the Regular Season title. Shawn Dettmer (JR/Cypress, CA) was a GSAC Scholar-Athlete for the Royals and Serra got a nod from the NAIA as an NAIA All-American – Honorable Mention selection.

Despite missing the NAIA postseason, the Royals still finished with a handful of rankings in the NAIA statistical database due to their strong play in the regular season. Ryan Brown ended his junior campaign ranked 15th in Goals Against/game average (0.800) and Cruz-Martinez finished 48th in the NAIA in Game-Winning Goals/game (0.200) after netting three in 15 appearances. As a team the Royals finished 21s in Shutouts/game (0.470) and Total Shutouts (9.000).

HIU says goodbye to seniors Cruz-Martinez and Serra now that the 2016 season has ended. The pair combined for 11 goals and nine assists during the 2016 season with 19 career goals – five of them game-winners – and 10 career assists between them. The majority of the Royals' talent returns for the 2017 season as the squad looks to learn from this year and move on into the offseason.


M - Soccer
Overall GSAC Streak
6-1-2 (.778) 2-0 (1.000) Won 2