HAMDEN, Conn. – Dave Nigro (Marlboro, N.J./Marlboro) scored the golden goal in the 104th minute as the Monmouth University men’s soccer team defeated Fairfield, 2-1, in double overtime to win the MAAC Championship Sunday afternoon on the Quinnipiac Soccer Field. With the win, the Monmouth (11-3-6) advances to its fifth NCAA Tournament in the last nine years under Head Coach Robert McCourt. Fairfield ends its season at 8-5-7.
Monmouth will find out its NCAA Tournament opponent and venue tomorrow at 1 p.m. The selection show will be webcast live on NCAA.com.
Emmanuel Senyah Agyemang (Kumasi, Ghana/KNUST University) was named the MAAC Championship Most Valuable Player, while Nigro, Matt Jeffery (Freehold, N.J./Freehold Township) and Derek Luke (Bridgewater, N.J./Bridgewater-Raritan) were also named to the All-MAAC Tournament Team.
“It’s absolutely special,” said McCourt. “We talked all year about sticking with the game plan and getting through these tough moments and with all the injuries we had, especially today. We’d like to dedicate this one to Jelani [Williams], who broke his leg in semifinal. We’ve had a lot of adversity this year and the team chemistry has been fantastic. We’ve talked all year about how we feel we’re the best team in the league and we feel we’re an NCAA Tournament Team and no matter who has to step in and get the job done for us, they will. And sometimes it was a little tough. We had a few ties in the league that maybe could’ve gone our way, but didn’t go our way. But the guys just stuck with the game plan, so I’m really proud of them.”
Following a scoreless first half in which the Hawks outshot the Stags, 6-4, Monmouth nearly scored off a set piece in the 70th minute. Andrew Gee (Cranford, N.J./Cranford) put a header on goal off Luke’s free kick into the box. Fairfield goalkeeper Matt Turner dove with full extension to the left upper 90 to knock the ball off the crossbar and back into the box.
Fairfield then struck first in the 72nd minute. Jordan Ayris unleashed a rocket into the right upper 90 from 25 yards out to stake the Stags to a 1-0 lead.
The Hawks quickly went on the offensive following the goal, with a Luke shot being saved less than a minute after the Ayris goal. In the 79th minute, Jeffery put a shot on goal but Fairfield keeper Matt Turner was there for the save.
A red card against Fairfield’s Angus Hastings in the 81st minute gave Monmouth a penalty kick that Agyemang went low inside the right post on for the equalizer.
Playing up a man, the Hawks got two shots on goal in the final three minutes of regulation, both from Nigro, but Turner was there for the save on both occasions.
Monmouth outshot Fairfield, 2-0, in the first overtime, but David Acuna Camacho’s (Heredia, Costa Rica/Costa Rica Youth National Team) shot went wide in the 94th minute and Luke’s shot in the 99th minute was saved.
The Hawks threatened in the 103rd minute with a corner, but couldn’t get a shot off. But in the 104th minute, Turner punched away Camacho’s cross into the box. Nigro was waiting for the ball just inside the top of the 18-yard box, played it off his chest down to the pitch and hit a left-footed strike off one bounce inside the right post for the golden goal.
For the game, Monmouth outshot Fairfield, 18-7, including a 10-4 edge in shots on goal. Monmouth also took an 8-0 advantage in corner kicks. Monmouth goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky (Lincoln Park, N.J./DePaul Catholic) made three saves in the win. Turner made eight saves in defeat.