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PSU Men’s Soccer advances to Little East Conference championship game

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Top-seeded Plymouth State University advanced to championship game of the Little East Conference Men's Soccer Tournament Thursday night with a decision over fourth-seeded University of Massachusetts Boston in a semifinal game at chilly Panther Field.

Senior Felix Rosen (Stockholm, Sweden) scored the tying goal for Plymouth State with 2:21 remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime. After two scoreless OT sessions, the game was declared a 1-1 draw, but PSU earned the right to play in the title game by winning the ensuing penalty kicks, 4-2.

The Panthers (10-5-2) will host second-seeded Keene State College (13-5-1) for the championship on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at Panther Field. The Owls punched their ticket to the final Thursday night with a 3-0 victory over third-seeded Rhode Island College. PSU and Keene State will meet in Plymouth for the second time this season; PSU won the regular season match, 1-0 in double overtime on Sept. 30.

The Beacons, who were making their first LEC Tournament appearance since 1999, finished a solid campaign with an 11-7-1 overall record.

Plymouth State outshot UMass Boston 24-9, but UMB sophomore keeper Paul Maniscalco (Hanover, Mass.) was outstanding in goal. He made 10 saves on the night, including several acrobatic stops, to keep the Beacons in the game.

Both teams had chances in the first half, but neither could put one in. UMB sophomore Romeo Zeqo (Medford, Mass.) headed one off the crossbar 10 minutes into the game, and PSU sophomore Semir Mehmedovic (Franklin, N.H.) had a couple of good chances stopped by Maniscalco.

The Beacons took the lead 10 minutes into the second half when freshman Igor DaCruz (Cambridge, Mass.) collected the ball in the box, spun and fired one past PSU netminder Tyler Shute (Deerfield, N.H.)

That appeared to be the game-winning goal for the visitors, but the Panthers would not go quietly. PSU outshot the Beacons 11-2 in the second half, and finally tied it up with less than three minutes to play. Junior Takeru Tanikawa (Shizuoka, Japan) sent a ball from outside the box to the left, far post, where Rosen finished off the play for his sixth goal of the season.

After two scoreless overtimes, the two teams went to penalty kicks. Plymouth State made its first four attempts, by Mehmedovic, sophomore Gareth Stephens (Yeovil, England), senior Dustin Moya (Thornton, Colo.) and junior Keith Whittemore (Holderness, N.H.). The Beacons missed on their first attempt, scored on their next two by sophomore John DiPietro (Havehill, Mass.) and junior Maynor Sanchez (Boston, Mass.), but PSU clinched the outcome when Shute made the save on UMB's fourth attempt.

Plymouth State is seeking its second LEC Tournament title, and first since defeating UMass Dartmouth in triple overtime in the 2000 championship game. Keene State is out for its fifth LEC title, having previously won in 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2004. Western Connecticut edged Rhode Island College on penalty kicks for last year's championship, 8-7.

PSU and KSC have met in the LEC final on two previous occasions, with the Owls winning the first LEC Tournament, 1-0 in overtime in 1999, and again in 2001, this time by a score of 5-0.

The winner of Saturday's LEC Championship game earns the LEC's automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.

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