In NCAA first round, early lead holds up until final minutes of regulation
By Bill Mullins/ Sports Information Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- -On a seasonably cool day in northwestern Massachusetts, the Eastern Connecticut State University men's soccer team lost, 2-1 in double overtime, at the hands of St. Lawrence University in a spirited and hotly contested match at Cole Field on the Williams College campus.
At right: Junior Carl Stensland gets the jump on St. Lawrence's Andrew Bednarsky during Saturday's NCAA first-round match. (Photo courtesy of Frank Poulin).
Despite it being just the second defeat of the season for Eastern (17-2-1), it came at a costly time, as the Warriors were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Division III regional tournament, and thus ending their season.
After a scoreless first overtime period in which quality chances were hard to come by a resounding ending came in the second. One minute and eleven seconds into the second sudden-victory-overtime period St. Lawrence's Mark Provost put a hard shot under the outstretched arm of a diving senior Jordan Munsell (Waterford) to seal a victory for the Saints (14-2-3), who move on to face host Williams in Sunday's regional title contest at 1:30 p.m. The winning goal came after a series of free balls which were finally cleared out of the box, but the final one eventually found itself on the right foot of Provost, and he didn't waste the opportunity.
At left: Under six-year head coach Greg DeVito (far right), Eastern's seniors led the program to an unprecedented four straight NCAA tournament appearances. From left: Bradley Fletcher, Jordan Munsell, Matt Furman and Cory Tobler.
Eastern looked to be the aggressors in the early going. For the first twelve minutes of the match Eastern outplayed St. Lawrence, resulting in numerous opportunities. There were three balls played into the box within the first two minutes, which Eastern had chances to get shots. Less than a minute into the match, the first chance was lost as senior Cory Tobler (Portland) sent a chipped ball caroming off the post and out of bounds. A minute later on a more successful cross Tobler found senior Matt Furman (Montville) with his pass and Furman put a hard shot wide of the mark resulting in a goal kick. A hard cross off a set piece by junior Mitch Power (Douglas, MA) at 10:27 was punched away by SLU keeper Nate Goss-Woliner to end the threat.
Following the initial onslaught of the Warriors, St. Lawrence -- which featured six players standning 6-foot-3 or taller -- mounted a furious eight minute counter-attack in which it dominated possession and scoring chances, while tallying five corner kicks. The Saints had a golden opportunity after a cross and a back heel flick by Dan Marvin, but Munsell pulled it in and saved the threat.
Following this period of high activity by the Saints, Eastern was able to receive a major lift, in the form of a goal and a 1-0 advantage at 23:16. It started when junior Carl Stensland (Storrs) played a ball into the box and a sliding Furman nudged it with his toe away from a diving Goss-Woliner into empty space, where freshman Arman Karbassioon (Cheshire), making just his fourth start of the season, buried the chance into the back of the vacated St. Lawrence net. Karbassioon's second goal of the year came on the second shot of his career, the shot and goal coming nine days ago in a Little East Conference semifinal win over Plymouth State University.
Karbassioon's goal gave the Warriors a much needed lift where they were able to withstand the St. Lawrence-dominated remainder of the second half. They Saints tallied five more shots and two more corner kicks but the Eastern defense stood strong, and even mustered a couple of counter-attacks. With this the Warriors were able to go into the halftime break with a 1-0 advantage, and even had an opportunity to push the margin to 2-0 but it went by the wayside.
The most notable of their counter-attacks was on a cleared ball out of the defensive end. With Furman waiting right at the midfield line, a ball was played over the St. Lawrence back line and into space. Furman, taking advantage of the pleading and momentary pause by the defenders asking for an offside call, sprinted into space where he came up with the ball and was able to go one-on-one with only the keeper to beat. As Goss-Woliner came out of his net to challenge, Furman held the ball, for what in hindsight may have been a touch too long, and his attempt was deflected away and out of bounds for arguably the greatest save of the day.
The early going of the second half was again dominated by the physical play of St. Lawrence aside from another counter-attack opportunity that Furman was again at the receiving end of. Following a quick change of possession, Tobler took a loose ball and played a gorgeous long ball to Furman who again beat all of the Saints' defenders to it but on his cutback move from ten yards out he slipped, and possession was corralled by Goss-Woliner before a shot could be taken.
St. Lawrence's best chance of the second half's early going was on a shot taken by Provost in the 61st minute. He hit a driven ball from just outside the 18 yard box that Eastern junior defender Mike Radlbeck (Westbrook) was able to jump up and deflect out of harm's way.
Following that attempt, Eastern's tactics took on a more defensive approach, especially as substitutions became far more liberal. In addition, the starting 4-3-3 formation shifted to a more traditional 4-4-2. This approach seemed to work for the majority of the remainder of the second half as Eastern would frequently drop eight players to defend and continually turned away attacks and corners, while blocking a number of shots. The highlight reel play of this stretch was went St. Lawrence's Jamal Samaroo put a shot on goal that a sliding Munsell was able to kick away. The tactic seemed to frustrate the St. Lawrence players and Nick Lincoln was hit with a yellow card at 82:06.
However, the shutout was not to stand, as St. Lawrence tallied chance after chance and was finally able to put home the equalizer. Following a series of headers in the box after St. Lawrence freshman Dan Hunt was able to put home the game-tying goal - the first of his career. After an initial corner kick was handled over the crossbar by Munsell the Saints were awarded a second corner and Eastern's luck would run out. This second corner kick of the sequence refused to find a home until Hunt was able to put in into the back of the net at 84:26.
The remainder of regulation was a rather tepid affair as both teams seemed to be content with playing for overtime. The exception to this was at the 88:33 mark as Brian Gilloran picked up the second yellow card of the day for the Saints.
The first overtime was mostly an evenly matched affair, despite the shot and corner kick advantage enjoyed by St. Lawrence. Of note, at the midway mark of the overtime period, Tobler, as he was backpedaling following the wrapping up of a free ball by St. Lawrence, was struck in the chest by Goss-Woliner on the edge of the 18 yard box where with the assistant referee looking right at the play yet no foul was called. None of the chances posed great risk and the period ended in a 1-1 tie.
Ranked fourth in New England and 24th nationally, Eastern finished as the Little East Conference regular season and tournament champions. Ranked No. 13 nationally and No. 2 in the East, St. Lawrence drew an at-large bid after failing to win the Liberty League playoffs.
Eastern's 17 wins are a single-season program record, breaking the mark of 16 set by the 1969 NAIA New England champions.
Both of Eastern's losses this season came in overtime but the Warriors were still an impressive 4-2-1 in matches which extended beyond 90 minutes.
Eastern junior starting back Jordan Clark did not dress for the match.
Eastern's seniors finish their career with a mark of 62-17-6.
St. Lawrence's Mark Provost was selected as Man of the Match by the Eastern Connecticut Sports Information Office.
Eastern falls to 0-3-0 all-time against St. Lawrence, whose NCAA loss a year ago spoiled an unbeaten regular season. SLU qualified for its 17th NCAA tourney this year.