DANBURY, CT – After playing to a scoreless tie in their regular season finale on Saturday, the fourth-seeded Western Connecticut State University men's soccer squad squared up against visiting fifth-seeded UMass-Boston in the quarterfinal round of the Little East Conference Tournament on Tuesday night at the Westside Athletic Complex. This time there was no tie. After double overtime ended with the count deadlocked at 0-0, WestConn advanced to the semifinal round with a 4-3 shootout (penalty kicks) win.
"This was a great win for our program. Both teams played an extremely competitive game, but somebody had to advance," said WestConn head coach Joe Mingachos following the breathtaking win. "I'm happy it was us and we're looking forward to another exciting game on Friday," he added.
The Colonials passed the ball with pinpoint accuracy in the opening minutes. However, the Beacons defense broke up several rushes in the early going. The hosts had the first quality scoring chance when junior forward Mikey Sciortino (Shelton, CT) ripped a low liner that was turned aside and classmate midfielder Afa Reyes (Bridgeport, CT) booted the rebound just outside the right post.
The visitors also had a chance to break the ice but senior forward Nick Fontana's (Marshfield, MA) shot from inside the box sailed wide of the left iron in the 36th minute.
In the second half, WestConn nearly tickled the twine. However, a blast from junior Harrison Allers (Wilton, CT) missed the top-right corner by inches. Moments later, it appeared a handball was committed in the box by a UMass-Boston player but the whistle did not sound. It sent the crowd into a frenzy and would have setup a WestConn penalty kick late in regulation.
In the first overtime, the Colonials had the best chance to score when junior goalkeeper Daniel Szabo (Trumbull, CT) fired a free kick that was deflected by senior Spencer Ranno (Sherman, CT). However, Beacon senior netminder Omar Castro-Dreher (Woonsocket, RI) got a hand on the ball as it trickled past the post.
WestConn continued to apply pressure in the second extra session en route to outshooting UMass-Boston by a 22-8 margin for the game. After Castro-Dreher broke up a free kick, junior Matthew Restrepo (Bridgeport, CT) booted a shot just wide, nearly cementing the win.
Sciortino opened the shootout with a make before a Szabo save, giving WestConn a 1-0 lead. The teams then exchanged made PK's before Szabo's shot was smothered by Castro-Dreher. Restrepo then fired home WestConn's final attempt to make it 4-3. UMass-Boston had a chance to knot it up on the ensuing attempt, but a diving Szabo came up with the stop, sending the Colonials to the next round.
WestConn (now 13-4-3 overall) moves on to face top-seeded and 21st-ranked host Eastern Connecticut on Fridayat 6 p.m. UMass-Boston season came to a close at 12-3-4 overall. The winner of No. 3 Rhode Island College versus No. 6 UMass-Dartmouth – which was postponed on Tuesday – will travel to No. 2 Keene State in the other semifinal on Wednesday. Both semifinal matches will be played on Friday, November 8. The Championship Final will now be on Sunday, November 10 at a time to be determined.