Junior Michael Harris, a Shorecrest graduate, scored in the 15th minute to help Washington advance to a second-round matchup with Creighton.
Better known for his body-flipping, head-over-heels throw-in technique, Michael Harris picked a fine time to score his first goal of the season.
Harris, a junior defender from Shorecrest, headed in a corner kick from James Moberg in the 15th minute to lift the Washington men’s soccer team to a 1-0 win over Air Force on Thursday in a first-round match of the NCAA tournament at Husky Soccer Field.
“I only scored one last year,” Harris said. “It’s nice to score, but it’s better for the team that we got the win.”
The 21st-ranked Huskies (13-4-2), making their first tournament appearance since 2007, advance to play 12th-seeded Creighton (15-3-2) Sunday at 3 p.m. in Omaha, Neb.
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Creighton, where UW coach Jamie Clark served one season as head coach before coming to Washington in January 2011, had a first-round bye in the 48-team tournament.
Clark was pleased with the positive vibe the victory gave the Huskies.
“Once you win it,” Clark said of being required to play a first-round match as an unseeded team, “you’d rather host it than get a bye, because we’ve got momentum. We’re rolling, we’ve got our legs under us and those early nerves are gone. We’re ready to go Sunday.”
The Huskies relied on their physical style and tight defense to help first-team Pac-12 goalkeeper Spencer Richey earn his 10th shutout in 20 starts.
“That’s our identity: We don’t give up goals,” said Clark. “That’s the backbone of our team, and then we’re opportunistic. Tonight if we were more opportunistic we could have had three or four (goals). We left them around late because we didn’t capitalize on our chances.”
Air Force (10-9-4), which won its conference tournament by upsetting ninth-ranked New Mexico in a shootout, was outshot by UW 10-6. The Falcons were making their first tournament appearance since 1997.
Harris, who had three assists entering Thursday night’s match, put a sharp header just under the cross bar and past goalkeeper Matt Underwood after Moberg curled in his corner directly in front of the goal.
Harris nearly gave the Huskies a second goal 10 minutes into the second half on a throw-in from 30 yards out that nearly bounced into the goal, but Underwood brushed the ball away at the last instant.
The Falcons came closest to scoring 15 minutes into the second half when Kevin Durr drilled a free kick from just outside the penalty area sharply off the cross bar. Minutes later, Richey smothered a hard grounder from 15 yards out by Scott McGillivray.