PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Rhode Island College junior Ryan Kelley (Hope, R.I.) headed in the game's only goal in the 87th minute Saturday afternoon to give the second-seeded Anchormen a 1-0 win over fourth-seeded Plymouth State University in the championship game of the 2008 Little East Conference men's soccer tournament.
RIC (12-5-4), which was making its third appearance in the conference title contest, wins the tournament for the first time in school history and also heads to the program's first NCAA Tournament. The Anchormen will find out their opponent when the NCAA announces the brackets on Monday at 9 a.m. RIC will either play on Wednesday, Nov. 12 or Friday, Nov. 14.
PSU, which was playing in the championship game for the fifth time, completes its season with an 8-9-3 overall record. The Panthers had defeated UMass Boston last Saturday on the final day of the regular season to get into the tournament, posted a first-round victory over Western Connecticut on Monday and upset top-seeded Southern Maine on Wednesday to get to Saturday's final.
It was a very competitive game, which looked to be heading for overtime late in the second half. Junior defender Kory Pacheco (Dartmouth, Mass.) intercepted a Plymouth State clear and lofted a pass that Kelley headed over the outstretched hands of PSU senior goalkeeper Tyler Shute (Deerfield, N.H.) for the decisive goal.
Pacheco, who helped hold PSU senior Semir Mehmedovic (Concord, N.H.), as well as Eastern Connecticut junior forward Maxim Fantl (East Hartford, Conn.) in Wednesday's semifinal game, without a goal, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Both players are among the top offensive threats in the LEC.
RIC's 12 wins equals the 2005 edition's total for the second most in a single season in program history. The Anchormen need one additional win to tie the 1973 squad's all-time mark.
Junior goalkeeper Justin O'Connor (North Kingstown, R.I.) made eight stops to earn his eighth shutout of the year for RIC, needing just one more to tie the program record for the most in a season. Shute made five saves in a losing effort for PSU.
The Anchormen have not lost to the Panthers in their last nine meetings, holding a 7-0-2 mark.
Kelley's goal in the 87th minute snapped a streak of 197 minutes of scoreless action between the two clubs this fall. RIC and PSU battled to a 0-0 double overtime tie on Oct. 18. Saturday's was much closer than the previous meeting. RIC held a seven-shot advantage (20-13), compared to a 31-5 margin three weeks ago.
(Courtesy of Rhode Island College Sports Information)
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