Saint Joseph’s Claims 2011 GNAC Men’s Soccer Championship
STANDISH, ME – Second-seeded Saint Joseph's (14-5, 7-3 GNAC) defeated #4 Norwich University (11-9, 6-4 GNAC), 4-1, in the 2011 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Men's Soccer Championship at Westerlea Way Field on Saturday.
The Monks netted a pair of goals in a span of five minutes midway through the opening stanza and countered the Cadets' late first-half marker with two tallies just three minutes apart in the latter period to roll to side's second conference crown in the last three seasons.
With the victory, Saint Joseph's collects an automatic qualifier – awarded annually to the GNAC soccer champion – into the NCAA DIII Men's Soccer Tournament, which begins late last week. The Monks also tied the program record for single-season victories, originally set two seasons ago, with the title win.
For Norwich, the 2011 campaign comes to a close with the loss.
Sophomore forward Zach Johnson (Westbrook, Maine) put the Monks on the board with a terrific goal off a Ross Suleski '14 (Amesbury, Mass./St. Thomas Aquinas) pass at the 24:12 mark. Johnson, needing one marker to break the SJC single-season goals record, accomplished the feat in style with a bicycle kick, taken from the left side of the 18, which soared into the top right corner to make it a 1-0 match.
Momentum quickly turned in the Monks' favor after the score as the hosts mounted steady pressure in the offensive zone for following five-minute stretch. Teddy Palmer '13 (Scarborough, Maine) belted a shot wide at the 26:16 mark and freshman midfielder Ali Hersi (Lewiston, Maine) was denied with a diving stop by Cadets keeper Christian Hallstrom '15 (Las Vegas, Nev.) in the 29th minute, but St. Joe's would extend the cushion to two goals just one minute later.
After a Norwich foul, Saint Joseph's was awarded a corner kick and senior Mike Sanfilippo (Walpole, Mass.) booted the sphere into the box, but the play was whistled dead as a Cadets player was called for a handball foul and Sanfilippo was awarded a penalty kick attempt. The senior proceeded to convert the first PK shot of his collegiate career with a blast to the bottom left corner after Hallstrom bought on a fake to the right.
The Cadets would go on to record a penalty kick of their own exactly nine minutes later when a trip was called on the Monks at the 38:46 mark. Anthony Amell '14 (Northfield, Vt.), who notched the game-winning goal in a 1-0 upset victory over top-seeded Albertus Magnus College in the semifinals on Thursday, took the PK sailed wide right.
Norwich would get on the board shortly thereafter when Garrett Shufelt '13 (Clifton Park, N.Y.) netted an unassisted marker off a corner kick in the 40th minute. The Cadets' points leader steered a shot taken from the middle of the box into the bottom left corner to cut the visitors' deficit to one goal heading into the break.
The Cadets held advantages in both shots (10-8) and corner kicks (2-1) in the first half. SJC keeper Kenny Grade '14 (Hampton, N.H./St. Thomas Aquinas) posted a pair of saves in the opening 45 while Hallstrom recorded one stop before intermission.
The halftime adjustments put forth by the SJC coaching staff seemed to click immediately as the Royal Blue raced out of the gate in the second stanza with a flurry of scoring chances. Palmer registered the first chance at the 48:24 mark when he sent a shot from inside the box that sailed over the crossbar. Sanfilippo took a corner kick less than two minutes later which resulted in several chances in rapid succession as a Johnson bid was denied by Hallstrom and a Jack LaFreniere '13 (Alton, N.H.) attempt went wide.
Johnson was awarded a free kick from the top of the box on the right side, but his shot was blocked. He managed to gather the rebound, but Hallstrom was in position to make the save on the sophomore's second attempt.
Play opened up a bit as both teams posted scoring chances over the following 20 minutes, but neither team budged until the 75:09 mark when sophomore back Dan McIntyre (Sparta, N.J.) sent a free kick from about 30 yards out into the bottom right corner of the net. For McIntyre, the goal was the first of his two-year NCAA career.
The Monks managed to gain even more breathing room just three minutes later when Hersi buried a loose rebound into the bottom right corner to make it a 4-1 contest.
Grade made five saves for Saint Joseph's while Hallstrom tallied a pair of stops in goal for the Cadets.
St. Joe's held a 14-5 advantage in shots in the second half and a 22-15 edge overall in the title triumph. The Monks also produced a 5-3 advantage in corner kicks on the afternoon.
With the win Saint Joseph's avenges a 2-1 loss at the hands of Norwich in the 2008 GNAC Championship game. The conference crown is the third in the 22-year history of the SJC men's soccer program and the Monks will be making the side's second NCAA Tournament appearance in the coming week. St. Joe's fell to Wesleyan College by a 2-0 margin in the national tourney after winning the GNAC title in 2009. Wesleyan advanced all the way to the Sweet 16 that fall.
Fans should expect the NCAA to release the national tournament seedings early next week.
The Monks have now won five straight games for the first time since 2008 and been victors in eight of the last nine overall. Since being shut out in back to back contests with losses to Emmanuel and Endicott on October 1st and 4th, respectively, Saint Joseph's has outscored opponents by 29-8 margin.
With the McIntyre score in today's victory, the Monks tied the program's single-season-team records for goals (43) and points (117) – both of which were originally set during the 1998 campaign. With 31 assists as a side, St. Joe's is just one away from tying the team helper mark as well.
The 2011 GNAC All-Tournament Team was announced following the Monks' on-field celebration and five players represent Saint Joseph's on the 12-man squad. Sanfilippo is the GNAC Tournament Most Valuable Player while Johnson, Grade, Palmer and McIntyre also receive honors.
Amell, Chris Bristol '15 (Clinton, Conn.) and Joe Young '14 (McLean, Va.) collected all-tourney honors for the Cadets.
2011 GNAC Men's Soccer All-Tournament Team:
Mike Sanfilippo - MVP
|Postgame Press Conference||Celebration on the field|
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