WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Following a scoreless double-overtime draw, the Monmouth University men’s soccer team advanced past Stony Brook on penalty kicks, 5-4, in the NCAA Tournament First Round Thursday night on The Great Lawn. With the tie, the Hawks move to 14-5-2, and will face third-seeded Connecticut, Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn. Stony Brook ends its season at 10-6-4.
“I thought it was another great moment for the program,” said Monmouth Head Coach Robert McCourt. “I thought the guys showed a lot of resolve. It was a good game, back and forth so it was entertaining for the fans and I thought the guys were very confident and executed the penalty kicks.”
Stony Brook shot first in the penalty kick shootout, and each team made its first two attempts. Kyle Schlesinger and Berian Gobeil Cruz each made their PK’s for Stony Brook, while RJ Allen (Old Bridge, N.J./St. Joseph’s) and Derek Luke (Bridgewater, N.J./Bridgewater-Raritan) each deposited their attempts into the back of the net.
Antonio Crespi then airmailed his attempt over the crossbar, putting the Hawks in control. Joseph Schmid (Kingston, Pa./Wyoming Valley [Villanova]) gave MU the 3-2 edge. Leonardo Fernandes and Mehdi Belakehal were successful on the final two attempts for Stony Brook, while Erkko Puranen (Viitasaari, Finland/Voionmaan Lukio [URI]) kept the Hawks in front with his next try. Anthony Vazquez (Belford, N.J./Middletown North [St. John’s]) sealed the Hawks’ fate, faking right before shooting left for the win.
“We work on [PK’s],” said McCourt. “We have worked on them for the last week and a half and we tell the guys to just be confident. We tell the guys on the sideline to encourage them in a confident way and I thought the guys showed their confidence and it shined through.”
The Hawks persevered through their third-straight double-overtime decision. Following a shootout victory against CCSU in the NEC Semifinals and a victory over Fairleigh Dickinson in the NEC Championship on Kalle Sotka’s (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinteen Sports) goal with 20 seconds remaining in the second overtime, the Hawks played the full 110 minutes tonight.
“Tells me a lot about the character of the guys,” said McCourt. “We talked about that all year. We have been up against some odds at times with the injuries and whatnot and I’ve been saying it has been the character that has been getting the guys through these moments. Again they rose to the occasion. Their character shined through.”
For the game, the Hawks outshot Stony Brook, 14-12, and took a 9-3 edge in corner kicks. Alex Blackburn (Natick, Mass./Natick) was impressive in net, making seven saves to secure his 13th shutout of the season. Stony Brook’s Stefan Manz was equally impressive in making six saves for a shutout of his own.