STANDISH, ME – Saint Joseph's (11-5, 7-3 GNAC) scored three unanswered goals in the second half to defeat Mount Ida College (7-8-1, 4-5-1 GNAC), 3-1, in Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) men's soccer action on at Westerlea Way Field on Saturday afternoon.
The Monks clinched the #2 seed in the GNAC Tournament and will host #7 Suffolk University (5-12-1, 4-5-1 GNAC), the reigning conference champions, next Sunday. Kickoff time will be determined in the coming days. St. Joe's, the 2009 GNAC champs, lost in the first round of last year's tourney as the #7 seed. The Monks tipped the Rams, 2-1, earlier this season.
The home-field advantage theory has proven to be true for Saint Joseph's, which is 6-1 at home this fall and has not lost at Westerlea Way Field since Albertus Magnus College (14-2-1, 10-0 GNAC) edged the Monks, 2-1 in overtime, on September 17th.
The Mustangs struck first on a well-executed corner kick in the 18th minute. Carlos Rojas '14 (Stamford, Conn.) took the corner and found freshman Michael Templeton (Charlestown, N.H.) with a perfect ball in the box. The first-year forward finished the play with a one-timed header into the top left corner of the net to provide his side with an early advantage.
The Monks' 1-0 deficit remained until early in the second half when Zach Johnson '14 (Westbrook, Maine) scored his team-leading 12th goal of the season off a rebound. After a Mount Ida foul, Dan McIntyre '14 (Sparta, N.J.) was awarded a free kick from about 40 yards out. His shot took an awkward short-hop that was not handled cleanly by Mustangs keeper Matt Pils '15 (Monroe, Conn.) and Johnson was in the proper place to tap the ball into an empty net.
Junior back Jack LaFreniere (Alton, N.H.) provided the hosts with a 2-1 lead two minutes later with his first goal of the season. A forward the last two seasons for St. Joe's, LaFreniere hailed back to his sniper days when he toed in the winner after pursuing a loose ball in the goalmouth.
Johnson proceeded to earn his second brace of the season with an insurance goal at the 78:15 mark. Saint Joseph's, which received excellent play in the middle all game, moved the ball quickly upfield in transition to find the second-year standout, who worked his way through one defender and deked another before beating Pils, who left his post to challenge, with a soft shot to the middle of the net.
SJC keeper Kenny Grade '14 (Hampton, N.H./St Thomas Aquinas) posted four saves, while Pils also recorded four stops in a losing effort.
The Monks held sizeable advantages in shots (16-8) and corner kicks (6-1) in the victory. Mount Ida committed 15 fouls – and was slapped with four yellow cards – while St. Joe's was whistled for 14 fouls and posted one yellow card infraction.
With the win, Saint Joseph's improves to 3-2 in the history of the series with Mount Ida College.
For the Monks, the 11-victory tally ranks as the third-highest single-season total in team history. Head Coach Steve Babineau, in the midst of his third season at the helm for St. Joe's, is the only skipper in the 22-year history of the program to post a pair of double-digit win seasons. Babineau guided the Monks to a 12-7-3 mark and a GNAC Championship crown in 2009, his first year in the fold.
Prior to the contest, during a spell of pouring rain, the program took a few moments to honor the team's five seniors: Mike Sanfilippo (Walpole, Mass.), Zach Hollingshead (Westerly, R.I.), Jesse West (Sheldon, Vt.), Nick Lemieux (Thomaston, Maine) and manager Chris Pinto. The group has played a significant role during the most successful four-year span in program history, a period during which the Monks have gone 43-31-6 (.581) overall and 23-12-2 (.657) in conference play. St. Joe's has advanced to the GNAC Tournament in each of the seniors' four seasons, including the 2009 campaign when the Royal Blue captured the conference crown and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.