PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State College freshman Troy Silva (W. Tisbury, MA) scored the only goal of the game with 3:10 remaining Saturday at Panther Field to give the Panthers a 1-0 victory over Amherst College in the NCAA Division III New England Regional semi-final.
The Panthers, the top-seed in the region, advance to Sunday's final at Panther Field (12:00 p.m.) against third-seeded Williams College. The Ephs stunned second-seeded Middlebury in Saturday's second semi-final, 5-0. It is the second straight season PSC has advanced to the New England regional final.
Silva's goal, his first of the season, came as the two teams appeared headed to overtime. An attempted clear by an Amherst defender went right to Silva, who one-timed the ball from 20 yards out just under the cross bar past Lord Jeffs keeper Kevin Larner (Short Hills, NJ).
"I don't remember how it came to me," said Silva. "It was the first one all day that I had time for. I said to myself ‘keep over it and keep it in play,' and it went in."
The verdict reverses the outcome of last year's New England regional final, when Amherst pulled out a 3-2 win. Amherst had more chances than Plymouth State in the first half Saturday, but the Panthers carried the play in the second half and finished with a 12-7 advantage in shots on goal.
"I thought we were playing really well in the first half," said PSC head coach Shawn Griffin. "We talked (at the half) about continuing to do the same things. The last 10 minutes of the game were played in their third on the field, and I felt it was just a matter of time. I just wasn't sure if we'd have the time."
"We all thought the first goal would win it," said veteran Amherst coach Peter Gooding, "and we were right. When you get to this stage, you have to be lucky, but Plymouth deserved this win. It would've been different if we outplayed them, but if any team deserved to win it was Plymouth."
Both teams played an excellent first half with Plymouth controlling most of the play. The first chance of the half came with less than 20 seconds remaining, when an Amherst free kick clattered off the crossbar and the rebound was put over the goal.
"A goal there would've really helped," said Gooding, "but Plymouth State played really well. They put more pressure on us in the second half, and we left a couple of guys open. The goal they scored was a beautiful shot, as it dipped on its way in."
Goalkeeper Shawn Higgins (Foxboro, MA) had three saves on the day for the Panthers, and Larner made three saves for the Lord Jeffs.
A game as close as this was decided by inches - with Amherst hitting the cross bar in the closing seconds of the first half and PSC converting its only goal just under the cross bar in the closing minutes of the second half.
"Both teams had opportunities," said Griffin. "If it had gone to overtime, it might've been a different story. I'm just glad it didn't."
The semi-final game between Middlebury and Williams was closer than the 5-0 score indicated. The two schools were scoreless at the half before the Ephs erupted for five second half goals.
"I thought the second goal in the second half broke their backs," said Williams head coach Mike Russo. "A 2-0 lead can be tough enough to overcome, especially when you're a man down. I am very pleased with the end result. Middlebury is a very, very good team, but our guys lifted their game and played pretty well.."
Williams got on the board 10 minutes into the second half on a goal by Nick Trebat (Westport, CT). Middlebury was flagged for a red card in the Williams goal box, with Steve Danbusky (New Hyde Park, NY) converting the ensuing penalty kick and a 2-0 Williams lead.
"We didn't do a good job overcoming the loss of a player," said Middlebury coach Dave Saward. "Williams is so bloody relentless with their pressure. They just don't stop coming at you. They force you into playing quicker than you want to. We were beaten by a good team. They defend so well it's really hard to break them down. It just wasn't our game. We played well for 45 minutes, but the game is 90 minutes.
Junior Jason Stojkovic (New York, NY) scored the next two goals for Middlebury, extending the lead to 4-0, and Michael Cortese (Basking Ridge, NJ) closed out the scoring in the final minute.
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