TULSA, Okla. (SMU) – The SMU men’s soccer team earned its first Conference USA Championship since 2006 by defeating No. 17 UAB, 2-0, Sunday afternoon at Hurricane Stadium. Junior Ben Hill and freshman Aaron Simmons scored for the Mustangs. With the win, SMU is now 13-6-1 on the season.
“I thought we played really well against a great team,” head coach Tim McClements said. “The thing about playing UAB is you know it’s always going to be a good soccer match. I thought it was hard-fought. Scoring that goal in the first half really put us in the driver’s seat. The second one was key, but they just kept pushing and pushing. It was just a back-and-forth match. I’m really proud of the guys.”
Junior Ben Hill put the Mustangs on the board in the 34th minute. Senior Arthur Ivo was fouled just outside of the 18-yard box, drawing an SMU free kick. Ivo took the kick, sending the ball into the box to Hill who knocked it home for a 1-0 Mustang lead. The goal was Hill’s third of the season and second of the tournament.
Freshman Aaron Simmons added insurance for Mustangs when he headed home an Ivo corner kick in the 59th minute for a 2-0 advantage. The goal was Simmons’ second of the season.
SMU came just inches from scoring on another set piece in the 49th minute as senior Adam Still hit the crossbar when he one-timed a corner kick from Ivo. Hill followed up the rebound with a header, but the UAB goalkeeper was there to make the save.
Ivo hit the left post in the 55th minute, after senior Ian Kalis sent Ivo on a strong run up field. Sophomore Robbie Derschang hit the right post in the 79th minute after receiving a ball at midfield, after running down field and beating the Blazer keeper one-on-one. Sophomore Zach Barnes fired a shot off of the left post in the final minute of play.
SMU goalkeeper Jaime Ibarra had another spectacular day in goal for the Mustangs, picking up his fifth shutout of the season. Ibarra’s biggest save of the game came in the 85th minute when he stopped a header on the line from UAB’s leading scorer Babayele Sodade. He also made a diving save on Chase Wickham in the 79th minute, sending the ball off of his fingertips and just wide of the goal. Ibarra and the Mustangs have now posted back-to-back shutouts.
Ivo was named Offensive MVP of the tournament. He now has team-high 28 points on the year. Senior Diogo de Almeida was named defensive MVP. Ibarra and junior T.J. Nelson were also named to the All-Tournament team.