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November 21, 2013

Men's soccer team withdraws from tournament

By John Cuturic

We won our first playoff game 2-1 in the freezing cold, but Wright State University are the ones who will be moving on in the Horizon League tournament.

The Cleveland State University men's soccer team withdrew from the tournament last week, according to a release by the athletic department. The release said that one of the players the Vikings used against Wright State last Tuesday was not eligible to play.

The player should have sat out for a game after receiving five yellow cards. The athletic department's release said that it was an honest mistake, and included apologies from athletic director John Parry and men's soccer coach Ali Kazemaini.

Parry said, "I apologize to all Horizon League members who have been affected by this in the past and future."

The athletic department did not release the name of the player who was ineligible. But according to the men's soccer statistics on csuvikings.com, the athletic department's official website, the only men's soccer player with more than four yellow cards was Mike Derezic, a junior midfielder from Lakewood.

Derezic, who scored an assist against Wright State last Tuesday, finished the season with 7 yellow cards.

If playing Derezic was the Vikings' mistake, then the violation probably occurred in a different game against Wright State, on Wednesday, Oct. 30, and not during the tournament game last Tuesday. Derezic played against Wright State on Oct. 30 after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season the game before.

But the athletic department's release suggests the violation occurred against Wright State on Tuesday. Whatever the case, we know one thing for sure -- the Vikings are out of the Horizon League tournament.

"It's unfortunate that our season has to end like this," Coach Kazemaini said. "It's a shame we are not able to defend our league championship, but we will learn from this and come back stronger."

The release didn't say how the team made the mistake. The Cleveland Stater contacted the athletic PR department, who said the soccer team had no comment other than the official release.

The men's soccer team played a good game against Wright State last Tuesday. The temperature danced around 30 degrees all night, and it felt colder than that with wind blowing. The crowd wrapped up in coats and blankets. The concession stand made a killing selling hot chocolate. The players from both teams went onto the field in shorts.

The Vikings pressured early and scored early, when midfielder Sergio Manesio punched the ball in off of a corner kick. The Wright State Raiders would answer the goal about 7 minutes later, off a kick after a Vikings foul. The starting goalie for Cleveland State, Nick Ciraldo, left the game with an injury, replaced by Austin Saini in goal.

James Howe regained the lead for the Vikings with about 30 minutes remaining in the second half. He got the ball up to the right corner of the goal box, then shot at an angle past the goalie, into the back left corner of the net.

Toward the end of the second half, Saini made a critical save. With 24 minutes remaining in the game, he blocked a shot from a Wright State attacker who had gotten past the defense. That gave Wright State a corner kick, which Saini jumped and grabbed out of the air. Saini and the Vikings defense blocked attack after Raiders attack toward the end of the game.

Despite the hard-fought win, the Vikings season has come to an end. The Vikings' final record is 8-12 overall, without a single draw all season. Last year, during their Horizon League championship run, they posted an 11-6-3 record. The change from 3 losses last season to 12 losses this season looks bad for the soccer team.

On the other hand, because of the rule-breaking and withdrawal, the Vikings didn't get a chance to protect their championship. It's hard to say now what might have happened.

But I think it's safe to say this: we know one mistake that the men's soccer team won't be making next year.