Nov. 9, 2012
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.J. - Sophomore Connor Thompson scored the game-winning goal and junior Thurman Van Riper earned a career-best nine saves to lead the Loyola University Maryland men’s soccer team to the championship game of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships with a 1-0 win over fourth-seeded Iona College in the second semifinal at Marist’s Tenney Stadium Friday night.
The win marks the eighth straight for top-seeded Loyola (13-5-1, 7-1-0 MAAC) and puts the Greyhounds in the title game for the 17th time in program history.
Senior Zach Tweddell played the free kick into the box that turned into an eventual goal for Loyola in the 78th minute. Junior Jamie Libby attempted a header on the kick, but the ball deflected to Thompson, who pulled it out of the air and stuck it into the top right corner for the game’s lone goal.
The Greyhounds’ defense then held on through the remainder of the contest, as the Gaels’ peppered Loyola with shots from inside the box as they looked for their equalizer. Van Riper came up with eight saves throughout the half, while his defense stepped up to block shots, getting the Greyhounds their seventh shutout this year.
Loyola put the pressure on early as junior Stephen Dooley stole the ball at about the 20-yard line and dribbled it around the defender before sending a cross to freshman Larry Ndjock in the eighth minute. Ndjock's header from about 10 yards out went just left of the goal though.
Thompson then had a header sail just high of the goal in the 34th minute when Tweddell played a free kick into the box.
Senior Gary Weisbaum followed up the chance in the 36th minute, striking a ball from inside the six toward the goal, but Iona’s goalkeeper Borja Barbero made a diving save to keep the game scoreless at that point.
The Gaels created a flurry of scoring opportunities in the 60th minute when Alvaro Torrecilla’s shot from the left side was blocked and ricocheted to a wide-open Franklin Castellanos on the right side. Castellanos gathered the ball to fire a shot, but senior Kevin Curran was there to steal it away and break up the opportunity.
Iona continued to pressure though and Samuel Adjei was able to get a shot off from the center of the box, but Van Riper was there to make the save and preserve the shutout.
Loyola will play for its 13th conference title on Saturday when it takes on Niagara at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 with the winner earning the MAAC’s automatic bid into the 2012 NCAA College Cup.