Nov. 14, 2008
Poughkeepsie, N.Y. - Sophomore striker Phil Bannister scored a goal and assisted on two more--including the game-winner--as Loyola used three unanswered goals in the second half to register a 3-nil blanking of Niagara on Friday night in the MAAC Semifinals at Leonidoff Field.
The unbeaten Greyhounds (18-0-1, 10-0-0 MAAC) advance to Sunday's MAAC Championship, which is held at noon and will air on ESPNU. Loyola will carry a national-best 27-match unbeaten streak into the title game, where it will face three-seed Fairfield (10-7, 6-3 MAAC).
For Bannister, it marks the fifth time this season that he has scored exactly five points in a match.
The Greyhounds got the game-winner at the 61:13 mark on a goal by sophomore midfielder Glenn Leitch. After service was played into the Loyola box, Bannister headed a shot on goal, which Niagara keeper John Fiutowski couldn't hang on to. Bannister corralled the rebound though, and played a back-angle pass to an open Leitch, who buried a rocket into the upper-left netting.
Niagara (11-6-3, 5-4-1 MAAC) nearly got the equalizer in the 65th minute on a shot by Eric Brodfeuhrer, but goalkeeper Milos Kocic made an excellent diving save, pushing the ball into the post. The ball was then cleared out by a Loyola defender.
Bannister doubled the Loyola lead just six minutes later at the 67:27 mark. He stripped a Niagara back of the ball deep in Purple Eagle territory, and beat another defender, sending a low shot past the keeper for his 12th goal of the season.
Sophomore Daniel Ankrah put the game away at the 85:05 mark on a goal, providing the final 3-nil tally. In that sequence, Bannister received a ball on the left-side of the box. He held the ball, and found a streaking Ankrah in the middle of the field, who pushed a 10-yard shot underneath the keeper.
A scoreless first half saw the teams combine for 15 shots, with Niagara outshooting Loyola, 11-4, in the period. Just three minutes into the match, the Purple Eagles had two consecutive shots inside the Loyola box, but goalkeeper Kocic made a nice lunging stop on one, while a second was sprayed wide.
Loyola nearly got on the board in the ninth minute. Leitch found himself open at the top of the box, but his shot barely pushed wide right. The Greyhounds moved the ball well in the first half, but several services into the box- including three corner kicks--were snatched up by Niagara keeper John Fiutowski.
Kocic again came up clutch at the 29th minute, stoning a well-struck attempt from forward Joe Skinner for his third save of the half. He then punched the impeding corner kick out of harm's way.
For the match, the teams combined for 37 combined shots, with Niagara outshooting Loyola, 20-17. Kocic made four saves for the Greyhounds on the evening and posted his 11th shutout of the season.