Men’s Soccer: Cadets Fall 4-1 to Saint Joseph’s (Maine) in GNAC title game
STANDISH, Maine – The Norwich men's soccer team's storybook run through the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) playoffs came to a crashing halt on Saturday afternoon as the Cadets' bid at a record fifth conference title was cut short by a 4-1 loss to Saint Joseph's (Maine) in the finals.
Saint Joe's (14-5-0) used a pair of quick two-goal strikes in each half to claim its second GNAC title in the last three seasons and also avenge a 2008 GNAC championship game loss to Norwich.
Norwich's Wesley Keslin (Brossard, Quebec) had the first two quality scoring chances of the game. Keslin nearly connected on a header off a corner kick from Chris Bristol (Clinton, Conn.) with 36:48 left to play in the first half, but the ball just sailed over the cross bar.
Keslin had another opportunity just under 10 minutes later off a scramble in the penalty area but his shot attempt was blocked by a Saint Joseph's (Maine) defender with the Monks' keeper Kenny Grade out of position after coming off his line.
Saint Joseph's (Maine) drew first blood with 21:06 remaining when Zach Johnson scored on a bicycle kick that beat Norwich goalkeeper Christian Hallstrom (Las Vegas, Nev.) over his head to give the Monks a 1-0 lead. Ross Suleski picked up an assist on the goal.
The Monks increased their lead to 2-0 just over five minutes later when Mike Sanfilippo took advantage of Norwich being whistled for a hand ball in the box and scored off the resulting penalty kick. Sanfilippo beat Hallstrom to his right after the NU keeper guessed left.
Sophomore forward Joe Young (McLean, Va.) gave the Cadets (11-9-0) a golden opportunity to cut into the deficit when he dribbled through a horde of Saint Joe's defenders and was taken down in the box, earning NU a penalty kick. However, Anthony Amell's (Northfield, Vt.) attempt sailed wide left and the Monks maintained their two-goal lead with 6:21 to play in the first half.
Junior forward Garrett Shufelt (Clifton Park, N.Y.) finally got the Cadets on the board though a little over a minute later when he scored from the top of the 18 off a corner kick from Bristol to cut the Saint Joseph's (Maine) lead to 2-1 heading into the halftime break.
However, that's as close as Norwich would get as the Monks scored two quick goals in a three-minute span late in the second half to put the game out of reach. Dan McIntyre made it 3-1 when his free kick attempt from 30 yards out ricocheted off a Norwich defender and into the back of the net.
Ali Hersi capped the scoring with the Monks' fourth goal when he capitalized on Hallstrom misplaying a ball and beat the NU keeper after the ball rolled off his arm right to Hersi's foot.
Norwich had a memorable week up until Saturday afternoon as the Cadets defeated Lasell in double overtime with a dramatic 3-2 comeback win capped by Shufelt's golden goal with three minutes to play. Then on Thursday, Amell scored with a little over two minutes to play to lift Norwich to a 1-0 upset win over top-seeded Albertus Magnus.
Young, Bristol and Amell were named to the All-Tournament team. Norwich will now await word from the ECAC on whether or not they qualified for the ECAC New England Tournament, which pits the top eight teams from New England that did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Norwich won the title in 2007.