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 November 1, 2012

When Morton drew first blood in the opening minute of Wednesday’s NJCAA Region IV semifinal at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, a lesser opponent may have crumbled.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, they were facing the Prairie State College men’s soccer team.

PSC sophomore goalkeeper Victor Lozano (East Chicago Central H.S., Ind.) and his teammates shook off the early tally, which came just 23 seconds into the match, and played unfazed for the remainder, dropping the Panthers in convincing fashion, 4-1.

The victory was the Pioneers’ 10th straight and vaults them into a date in the region championship tilt against Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference foe Oakton on Saturday at a site yet to be determined.

“I’m proud of our team and the way that they responded to the early goal,” PSC coach David Spataru said. “The way that we picked ourselves up was a good indicator of the type of character our team has.”

The title game berth will be Spataru’s first at Prairie State.

The Pioneers (19-2) now stand just a win away from their first-ever appearance at the NJCAA Championship Tournament.

PSC struck back in the 18th minute when sophomore midfielder Ivan Valencia (Plainfield South H.S.) found freshman forward Lukman Ahmed-Shaibu (AP College, Nigeria). Ahmed-Shaibu flicked in a shot that caught below the cross bar.

The tally was Ahmed-Shaibu’s 26th of the campaign. He is now second nationally in scoring.

Fellow freshman forward Kyle Burry (Elk Rapids H.S., Mich.) gave Prairie State a 3-1 edge following a pair of markers in the 33rd and 38th. Both tallies came courtesy of assists by Alexis Ferreira da Silva (Liceu Pasteur H.S., Brazil).

Burry now has 20 goals on the season and currently sits ninth on the national scoring list.

Valencia chipped in another helper when he assisted on freshman midfielder Felipe Garcia da Silva’s (Moreira H.S., Brazil) score in the 54th.

Lost in the excitement of PSC’s offensive efforts, was the performance of Lozano, who suffered an injury midway through the opening half, but remained in the match.

“Victor is a tough kid and I’m proud of the way he played and hung in the game,” Spataru said.

Lozano made three saves in the tilt.

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