The Wingate athletics programs welcomed a move to NCAA Division II in 1989, but in the ensuing 27 years, the championship trophy collection remained purely illusory.
The men’s soccer program was tapped to change that this season, with a stalwart defensive scheme that surged Wingate up the national rankings.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs used a familiar formula for national championship No. 1.
They posted yet another zero.
Wingate shut out Charleston (W.Va.) 2-0 to win the NCAA Division II men’s soccer national championship Saturday at Swope Soccer Village.
Forward Jon Ander supplied both goals for the victors — hours after his brother told him he would score twice.
“Before we went to the bus, I said to all my brothers and teammates (that) this is a day we’re going to win it,” Ander said. “I said to them, if we keep the zero, we will win this game.”
The defense did its part.
And Ander altered the scoreboard twice. He provided the eventual game-winner in the 37th minute — a long-distance shot that found the back of the net after a deflection. He added a second goal in the 78th minute.
More than enough.
Wingate, 20-1, concluded its championship season with only eight goals allowed all year. It did not allow a goal in the NCAA tournament.
The opponent Saturday made the latest shutout all the more impressive. Charleston, 19-3-2, which was making its third consecutive trip to the Final Four, entered the afternoon second in the nation with 3.39 goals per game. In search of its first title, it found little in the way of offense Saturday, recording only two shots on goal. Wingate All-American goalkeeper Pablo Jara made two saves for his 12th shutout of the year. Neither were particularly difficult stops.
“We defended with our hearts. We work hard for each other,” said Wingate defender Alex Nelson, who was named the most outstanding defensive players for the tournament. “It’s not just the back four and the goalkeeper. It’s everyone. We start with the front.”
Ander allowed Wingate to further play to that strength in the second half. In the 37th minute, he unleashed a shot from 20 yards out, and the ball deflected off Charleston defender Danilo Dias and into the upper left corner. Ander was credited with the goal, and Oscar Perez was given the assist.
Ander doubled the margin in the 78th minute with a left-footed strike from 20 yards out, capping a counter attack. Earlier in the tournament, he delivered the game-winner against Tampa to send Wingate to its first Final Four in program history.
Before this season, Wingate had never advanced passed the Elite Eight. The championship is the first in school history in any sport.
“I guess we’re going to leave the place better than we found it,” Wingate coach Gary Hamill said.