STANDISH, Maine – After 110 minutes failed to produce a winner – or a goal – top-seeded Saint Joseph’s College (15-1-5, 8-0-1 GNAC) managed to top #2 Norwich University (12-4-4, 6-0-3 GNAC) 4-2 in penalty kicks to claim the 2016 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Men’s Soccer Championship at Westerlea Way Field on Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, Saint Joseph’s earns an automatic berth into the NCAA DIII National Championship Tournament, which begins next weekend. The complete NCAA bracket will be announced on Monday. For Norwich, the dramatic setback signals the end of the 2016 campaign.
The Monks saw four of five PK attempts find the back of the net, as sophomore Brett Mattos, freshman Noah Robinson, sophomore Rory Twomey (South Windsor, Conn.), and sophomore Mitchell Cyr hit pay dirt for the hosts. Norwich senior netminder Billy Whaley stopped a bid by sophomore defender Dalton Gaumer.
For the Cadets, senior Moab Schiers and freshman Luke Gleadle converted their chances while SJC sophomore keeper Blake Mullen denied sophomore Matt Hilton and senior Jacob Zimmerman, one of the top scorers in the conference, to clinch the victory as fans rushed the field.
The Cadets posted a flurry of scoring opportunities late in the first half, as freshman Dashiell Vermilya, junior Noah Schiers, senior Alec Brigante, and junior Colin Lozito all had shots that were stopped or sailed off target as the visitors took advantage of several corner kick attempts.
The Monks had perhaps the best chance to break the stalemate came when St. Joe’s nearly scored off a corner in the 80th minute. Sophomore Jesse Ramirez sent the corner into the box finding senior Sean Baker (Medfield, Mass.), who headed a shot toward the top left corner of the net but was denied by senior midfielder Moab Schiers, who flicked the ball over the crossbar with a header.
Saint Joseph’s held sizeable advantages in shots (26-9) and shots on goal (6-1) with an 8-5 lead in corner kicks.
Mullen was credited with one save in the victory and was pivotal in taking away the Cadets’ advantage on corners and free kicks. Whaley made five saves in the losing effort.
The GNAC Championship is the Monks’ third and first since the 2011 campaign, when SJC defeated Norwich 4-1 at Westerlea Way Field – the Monks claimed their first GNAC crown in 2009