Nov. 8, 2003
ORLANDO, FL - Freshman Omar Alfonso, the 2003 MAAC Rookie and Offensive Player of the Year, scored twice in the final 15 minutes of Saturday's conference Semifinal to propel top-seeded Loyola to a 4-2 victory over Marist. The Greyhounds let a two-goal lead slip away before closing with two scores and a win.
The Greyhounds came out on the offensive and at the 22-minute mark, Nate Lyden fired a shot that bounced off Marist goalkeeper Mike Valenti. Kevin Nash was right there, however, and his shot gave Loyola the early 1-0 lead.
Still on the offensive side of the field, Alfonso played a ball to Lyden, who came across the middle to beat Valenti at 27:10. The Red Foxes cut the lead in half with Anthony Graci's unassisted goal at 35:35 and the halftime score was 2-1.
"I think we became a little two comfortable with the early lead," says Loyola goalkeeper Justin Chelland. "Marist came out with a lot of intensity in the second half and we just weren't ready for it."
Loyola held a 7-6 edge in shots and a 3-2 advantage in corner kicks at the break. Marist, however, took 11 second-half shots, six second-half corner kicks and with just over 20 minutes left in regulation, the Red Foxes and Bruno Machado tied the score on a broken play.
"Marist is a very explosive side and their forwards can score a lot of goals," says Loyola Head Coach Mark Mettrick. "When they scored their second goal, we were a bit concerned because they were fighting like a caged animal with their backs to the wall."
Alfonso would put the Greyhounds ahead for good when Chelland started a break with a long goalie kick. Alfonso controlled the ball, beat his defender and slipped it past a sliding Marist goalkeeper.
"I saw the goalkeeper come out to play the ball," says Alfonso. "They had a defender play the net and I had to adjust my shot. We both slid and the ball went in."
The final blow, however, came when Alfonso was all one with three Marist defenders. He teased the goalkeeper out of the cage before firing just under the crossbar. For Alfonso, it was his 17th goal of the season. For Loyola it was its 11th win of the year.
The Greyhounds, now 11-6-3 overall, play in their third straight MAAC title game on Sunday. Loyola has won the last two MAAC tournament titles, advancing the NCAA tournament each of those seasons.
"The big win is tomorrow," says Chelland, who ended the game with nine saves. "That's the one that really matters."
Loyola will play St. Peter's at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex on Sunday at noon. The Peacocks defeated No. 10 Rider, 2-0 in today's other Semifinal.