Sports

Men’s Soccer Season Ends In Penalty Kicks

sports_menssoccerThe men’s soccer team fell to Fairleigh Dickinson University in penalty kicks on Sunday and were eliminated in the semifinals of the NEC tournament. The Hawks finished the season with an 11-4-4 record.

After winning their final regular season game at home on November 4 against Sacred Heart, the Hawks were unable to advance in the conference tournament, ending their hopes for a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

The Hawks handled the Sacred Heart Pioneers 1-0 behind a 67th minute goal scored by first team All-NEC selection Joseph Schmid. The game was played six days after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore.

“It was a tough week for them because half the team had been without power for the entire week,” said head coach Robert McCourt. “I thought that they rallied up really well and showed their character come game time.”

“So many people were affected during this time period,” senior captain Ryan Clark said.

With the win, MU locked up the number three seed in the NEC tournament, behind first seeded Quinnipiac and second seeded Fairleigh Dickinson. The tournament was held at the location of the top seed, Quinnipiac.

“We knew FDU was a pretty good defensive team and our game plan was to see if we could get in wide spots and try to score some goals early,” said McCourt.

The conditions of the field at Quinnipiac led to a relocation for the game at West Haven High School (CT.) football field. The field was 65 yards wide, compared to the 85 yard wide Great Lawn, negating the wide style of play the Hawks prepared for. MU found themselves down 1-0 after a miscommunication on the defensive side of the ball led to a 39th minute goal by FDU.

MU was able to respond in the 51st minute as All-NEC selection Emmanuel Agyemang scored his first goal of the season on a set piece off of a free kick. In McCourt’s eyes, Agyemang has been a model of consistency the entire season.

The game was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and after two overtime periods, the game went to penalty kicks. Schmid netted the first attempt, but the Hawks missed their next two shots and found themselves down 3-1 after three attempts for each team. Matt Jeffery and Francois “Paco” Navarro connected on their shots, but FDU managed to put the game away with their fourth goal of the penalty shootout.

“It definitely stung a lot; I’m still pretty upset about it, but it happens,” said Clark. “I’ve won so many times on penalty kicks, but it’s just part of the game. You win some, you lose some, you just gotta move on.”

“It’s always devastating for players to lose on penalty kicks, it’s probably one of the most difficult things in our sport,” said McCourt. “The last couple of years we’ve been on the winning end of them. It’s almost like a coin toss.”

As the season comes to a close, the Hawks have seen four of their own be named to the All-NEC team. Goalkeeper Alex Blackburn was a first- time selection, playing every minute of every game in net for MU. He recorded nine clean sheets and has 23 shutouts in his collegiate career.

PHOTO COURTESY of MU Photography