PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Senior Jeremy Gasowski (Lee, N.H.) scored one goal and assisted on another Wednesday afternoon, leading Plymouth State College to a 3-1 victory over Norwich University in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Championships at Panther Field.
The victory advances the Panthers, 15-4-0, on to the Northeast Regional semifinal Saturday against defending national champion St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. (11 a.m.). Hamilton and Plattsburgh State will meet in the other semifinal (1:30 p.m.), with the regional championship match slated for Sunday at 1 p.m. at SLU.
Plymouth State, champions of the Little East Conference, outdueled Norwich, Great Northeast Athletic Conference champs, most of the afternoon. PSC outshot the Cadets 18-4 and scored three times on a Norwich squad that had allowed only six goals all season.
"I'm ecstatic for our guys," said PSC first-year head coach coach Keith Byrnes, who served the past two seasons as an assistant at Norwich. "We were hoping to play our best and ‘may the best team win,' and that's exactly what happened."
"Obviously there's some serious talent on Plymouth State," said Norwich head coach Bob Friske. "Our guys pushed real hard, but they were the better team today. I don't want losing today, though, to take away the accomplishments of this team the past couple of years."
The Panthers led only 1-0 at halftime, despite several opportunities. Gasowski had a shot at point-blank range stopped by Norwich keeper Josh McElroy (Boyertown, PA) midway through the half. PSC finally broke through when Gasowski found junior Antoine Moiboueyi (Gabon, Africa) parked in the Cadets crease area, and Moiboueyi slid the ball into the lower right corner for a 1-0 lead.
Norwich had two of its best scoring chances in the last 10 minutes of the half. Senior Pete Connery (Framingham, Mass.) had a shot from the top of the box go just wide right, and senior Dave Costa (Plymouth, Mass.) connected on a header that forced PSC keeper Brad Wilby (Haddonfield, N.J.) to make a tough save.
PSC took a two-goal advantage at the 66:20 mark when Gasowski hit a corner kick that curled in on McElroy. The Cadet keeper stopped it, but the ball rolled past him and into the net for a 2-0 lead.
"I just whipped it into the box and hoped for the best," said Gasowski. "It made up for the point-blank shot I missed. I felt we deserved it because of the pressure we'd put on them. I felt like I was due for a goal."
The lead was short-lived, however, as Norwich answered only 33 second later. Senior Gavin Woods (Belfast, Northern Ireland) redirected a pass from Costa past Wilby and the Cadets were back to within one goal.
With time winding down, Norwich began pressing offensively, which allowed PSC several fast-break scoring opportunities. McElroy kept the Cadets alive until junior Sal Friello (West Haven, Conn) scored with 1:16 remaining, with an assist from junior Garry Thomson (Glasgow, Scotland). McElroy finished with 10 saves and Wilby with one.
"Scoring three goals was great," said Byrnes, who saw PSC play 131 minutes before scoring against UMass Dartmouth in the LEC Championship. "The only disappointing thing was that we had a letdown after we scored the second goal. Our concentration level went down, but that got us back in the game."
Plymouth State will face a St. Lawrence team that finished the regular season at 15-0-2 and earned the top seed in the Northeast Region bracket. "I happy our guys will have the chance to play the defending national champs," added Byrnes. "We'll just concentrate on our game and not worry about them."
Plymouth State is making its 16th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and third in the last four years. It is also PSC's fourth straight post-season berth and seventh in the last eight years.
"We were a little out of gas today," said Gasowski, "coming after the three overtimes on Sunday. With a little more rest, everyone will be ready on Saturday. We're excited to go against the defending national champions. They're a great squad, and it should be a good game. We're looking forward to it."