BOSTON, MA – Sophomore forward Zach Johnson (Westbrook, Maine) scored in the 57th minute to lift Saint Joseph's (10-5, 6-3 GNAC) past Emerson College (8-8, 7-3 GNAC), 1-0, in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) men's soccer match at Rotch Field on a rainy Wednesday evening.
Johnson netted his team-leading 11th goal of the season off a slick feed from midfielder Mike Sanfilippo '12 (Walpole, Mass.). The game-winner was his sixth of the season, a total that ranks as the most clinchers in the GNAC this fall.
The late-season conference match was even more meaningful considering where the GNAC counterparts stood in the standings heading into the cold and rainy night. With the narrow triumph the Monks have clinched at worst the #4 seed in the upcoming conference tournament and could spring past Emerson into the #2 slot with a victory over Mount Ida College (7-7-1, 4-4-1 GNAC), which comes to Westerlea Way Field for a 2:30 PM kickoff on Saturday.
The GNAC Tournament, featuring the top eight teams in the conference, begins with a quarterfinal round on Saturday October 30th and continues with semifinal and championship matches on November 2nd and 5th, respectively. The higher seeds serve as hosts throughout tourney play.
As for tonight's contest, an evenly-matched first half saw both teams battle through horrid weather conditions as driving rain and wind altered the attacks mounted by the conference counterparts. The opening 45 minutes came to a close with no score and 12 total shots with both sides taking six apiece in the first half.
The adjustments made by the Saint Joseph's coaching staff during intermission proved fruitful, as the Monks came out of the gates strong and continued to pour on the pressure by the tune of a 10-2 shots advantage in the latter stanza. The Royal Blue finally hit pay dirt when Johnson beat Emerson keeper Noah Price '12 (Apex, N.C.) with a rocket from the top of the box at the 56:45 mark. Sanfilippo set up the go-ahead goal with a cross pass after finagling his way through heavy traffic.
Saint Joseph's was able to maintain the offensive pressure and, in effect, hold the Lions' offense at bay for the remainder of the contest.
SJC netminder Kenny Grade '14 (Hampton, N.H./St. Thomas Aquinas) made three stops to record his fourth shutout of the season while Price, who played well in goal, posted seven saves in a losing effort.
Overall, St. Joe's held a 16-8 advantage in shots and a 6-2 lead in corner kicks. The Monks were also hit with 12 fouls compared to seven infractions committed by the Lions.
Emerson has never defeated Saint Joseph's in men's soccer competition as the Monks have won all six meetings since joining the GNAC prior to the 2007 campaign. Three of the six wins have been shutouts.