By Michael Otero
For the second-straight season, the men’s soccer team won the 2015 NCAA Division II Championship East Region title after knocking off the no. 3 ranked Penmen from Southern New Hampshire University, 5-4, in penalty kicks on Thursday, Nov.
19. Both sides played a very physical first half, with the Penmen outshooting the Pioneers, 6-4. SNHU’s keeper was put to work in the first 45 minutes, stopping three shots. At halftime, the score was deadlocked at zero. In the latter stanza, the level of play stayed the same and both teams were kept off the board for the remainder of regulation. In the first overtime, the Penmen had two golden opportunities to score and move on to the next round, but junior keeper Jesper Malmstrom stood strong and sent back a pair of shots to keep the game scoreless.
In the next overtime, the Pioneers big chance to win the game before penalty kicks came when freshman forward Charlie Ledula made a dash for the post and headed the ball towards the net, but the keeper made an incredible save to keep the match scoreless.
In the penalty kick session, both sides converted their first four attempts, keeping with the theme of the day, which was neither side giving an edge. After graduate back Seb Baxter netted a goal to put the Pioneers up 5-4, Jonathon Lupinelli, who could have sent the match into a sixth round, shot over the bar, and sent the Pioneers to the quarterfinals. The loss for the Penmen was only their second in 22 games this season.
The Pioneers returned to the pitch on Saturday, Nov. 21, to do battle with another no.3 seed in the University of Charleston. In their quarterfinal matchup, the Pioneers fell by a score of 2-1.
The Pioneers found themselves behind the eight ball early on; letting up two goals in the game’s opening 23 minutes. Seeking some sort of momentum heading into the break, LIU turned to graduate midfielder Tom Bowen who sent a free kick into the mesh cutting the lead in half. At the break, the Pioneers trailed 2-1.
The second half was dictated by the spectacular play of Charleston keeper Fabian Velt. He made three saves; including one that could’ve sent the match into overtime. With under a minute left in the match, Ledula got a shot away and Velt used every inch he had at his disposal to get a fingertip on the ball and keep it out of the net. That scoring chance was the last one the Pioneers got and Charleston came away with the thrilling 2-1 victory.
The Pioneers concluded their 2015 season with an overall record of 15-3-3. Under head coach Andreas Lindberg, this is the team’s fifth straight 15-win campaign. The Pioneers will kick off pre-season again in the summer of 2016.