Buies Creek, N.C. - Senior Griffin Gilstrap was named the tournament MVP after scoring both goals in Stetson's 2-1 win over Mercer University in Sunday's Atlantic Sun Conference Championship game. It is the second time ever the Hatters have earned the title and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
Stetson struck first with an early goal in the third minute by Griffin Gilstrap (Safety Harbor, Fla.). Kevin Munz (Jupiter, Fla.) made a run down the left side and set up Gilstrap in front. It was the 10th goal of the season for the A-Sun's top scorer.
In the 28th minute Gilstrap and Munz once again combined for a goal and put the Hatters up by a pair. At 27:11 Ryan Corning (Ponte Vedra, Fla.) found Munz who then set up Gilstrap for a right footed blast from just inside the box.
"It feels great", said Gilstrap after the game. "I have to give the credit to my teammates, Munzy set me up for two goals today."
After controlling the play in the first half and holding a 10-5 advantage in shots, Stetson had to hold on in the second. Mercer scored in the 70th minute and continued to apply pressure right to the end, yet could not get an equalizer past the stingy Hatters defense anchored by A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year Robert Hodge (Devon, England).
"This is what we have been working for all season", said Hodge, a team captain for the Hatters. "We have to give credit to Mercer for pressuring us late. They wanted to win but we held strong. We rode our luck at times but over a course of a season you earn that. Every team has their luck, today it was our turn."
Mercer out shot Stetson 9-3 in the second half, and finished with a 14-3 advantage in corner kicks.
Stetson's was playing in its third final in the past five years. The last time Stetson faced Mercer in an A-Sun tournament game was the 2005 semifinal. Stetson won 3-1, and went on to capture its lone A-Sun Championship with a 2-1 win over Campbell.
Head Coach T. Logan Fleck was doused with powerade during the post-game celebration. "I will take that any day", said Fleck. "The kids played very hard today, I couldn't be more proud of them. I am very lucky to be coaching at Stetson, I just love it."
The Hatters will enjoy the long bus ride home to DeLand and then get ready for the NCAA announcement of tournament pairings that will come tomorrow.
Click on link for additional coverage from A-Sun, including post-game video: http://www.atlanticsun.org