STANDISH, ME – Saint Joseph's (10-6-2, 6-3-1 GNAC) continued its late-season upswing by defeating Lasell College (14-2, 9-1 GNAC) in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) men's soccer contest at Westerlea Way Field on Monday afternoon. With the result, the Monks extend their winning streak to six games while the Lasers see their 10-game win string, and hopes for a perfect conference season, come to a close.
Senior forward Zach Johnson (Westbrook, Maine) put the Monks on the board with his team-leading sixth goal of the season in the 25th minute and senior defender Joe Murphy (Poland, Maine) tallied the eventual game-winner with just two seconds remaining in the opening half.
With the victory, St. Joe's – the defending GNAC Champion – has earned the #3 seed and will host #6 Emerson College in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament on Saturday. Lasell, ranked ninth in last week's NSCAA New England Regional Poll, has claimed the #1 seed and will host #8 Mount Ida College in a GNAC Tournament quarterfinal on Saturday.
The Monks' three seniors: Murphy, Teddy Palmer (Scarborough, Maine) and Alex Day (Portland, Maine/Cheverus) - were honored with a brief ceremony prior to the start of the match. The seniors' parents and family members gathered at midfield while a short announcement, detailing the group's achievements, was read over the public address system.
Rushing downfield on a break, sophomore midfielder Jason Wade (South Hampton, N.H.) set up the first goal when he attempted a right-to-left cross from near the 20. His feed sailed long and looked to be scooped up by Lasell keeper Miguel Colmenares (Caracas, Venezuela), but the ball was mishandled and landed on the foot of Johnson, who followed a kick into an empty net, lifting the hosts to a 1-0 lead.
The Lasers recorded one of their best scoring efforts of the afternoon in the 34th minute, when Mike Skelton (Conway, N.H.) first took a shot that was blocked and, after gathering the rebound, added another bid that smacked the right goal post.
With the first-half clock waning, junior back Dan McIntyre (Sparta, N.J.) sent a free kick on target from midfield and Murphy, patrolling the goalmouth, attempted a close-range header that Colmenares stopped, but the senior back collected his own rebound and booted the ball into a vacant goal two seconds before the first stanza expired, providing Saint Joseph's with a 2-0 advantage going into intermission.
Although the Lasers registered a handful of excellent scoring opportunities in the second half, the visitors would hit pay dirt only once in the closing 45 minutes en route to dropping their first conference game of the season. The Lasell goal began with a mishandled ball at midfield, as the visitors quickly transitioned into offensive mode with several clean passes driving into Monks territory. Brennen Adams (Southbury, Conn.) managed to corral a lead pass near the goalmouth and appeared to be stopped by an SJC defender, but the ball squirted free and freshman goalkeeper Scott Benner (Post Falls, Idaho), caught on the wrong foot on the misdirection, had no chance to stop Adams' shot to the right corner of the net.
Skelton recorded another prime scoring opportunity in the 66th minute, as the junior forward dabbled his way inside the box and had an open look at an empty goal with Benner out to challenge, but Murphy came up big with a defensive stop to save a sure Lasell score and preserve the 2-1 edge.
Lasers freshman forward Conor Fitzgerald (Marshfield, Mass.) nearly knotted the game with 3:58 remaining in regulation, but his blast from the left 30 sailed barely beyond Benner's reach and over the crossbar.
Benner registered six saves for the Monks while Colmenares made a pair of stops for the Lasers in a losing effort.
Lasell held a commanding 22-7 advantage in shots, including a 15-3 discrepancy in the second half, and edged the Monks by a 2-1 margin in corner kicks on the afternoon. There was also a wide gap in the number of fouls handed down, as St. Joe's was hit with 18 infractions and the Lasers committed six fouls in the conference contest.
With the triumph, Saint Joseph's improves to 2-7 in the history of the series with Lasell College and snaps a three-game losing streak at the hands of the Lasers. Winners of six straight heading into the GNAC Tournament, the 2012 side has tied the program victory streak record and heads into the postseason carrying tremendous momentum. The 1998 team, under the guidance of Head Coach Bob Bourget, was the only other SJC men's soccer squad to record a six-game winning streak.
Prior to this afternoon, the Lasers' only loss this season came at the hands of Brandeis University – the #3 team in New England and #18 side in the nation, according to last week's NSCAA polls.
Saint Joseph's College, founded in 1912 by the Sisters of Mercy, celebrates its Centennial year in 2012 with a theme of "Realize the Promise" – honoring our commitment to educating well-rounded graduates who combine career focus with classic liberal arts studies. A Private, Catholic, primarily residential, coeducational liberal arts institution, Saint Joseph's welcomes students of all ages and all faiths. The campus, located 18 miles northwest of Portland and just two hours from Boston, encompasses 350 acres along the shore of beautiful Sebago Lake in Standish, Maine. Enrollment ranges between 1,000 and 1,100 students annually. Saint Joseph's offers challenging academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education, nursing and business fields in a value-centered environment.