Herbert scores PSU goal but Panthers miss out on playoff berth
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – The Plymouth State University men's soccer team, battling for a Little East Conference playoff berth, went down to the wire Saturday afternoon at Eastern Connecticut State University before the two teams ended with a 1-1 double-overtime draw at Thomas Nevers Field.
The host Warriors qualified for the Little East playoffs for the eighth straight season, while the outcome knocked PSU down to fifth place and out of the post-season. The Panthers complete the season at 5-10-2 overall, and 3-2-2 in the LEC. There was a three-way tie for second place in the Little East between Rhode Island College, Keene State College and Eastern Connecticut, all at 4-2-1 in conference play, with PSU finishing percentage points back.
By avoiding a loss, Eastern (9-5-4, 4-2-1 LEC) gains the No. 2 seed in the four-team playoffs and will host third-seeded Keene State Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Nevers Field. Rhode Island College earned the fourth and final playoff bid the hard way, handing regular-season champion Massachusetts Boston its first loss, 1-0, Saturday in Boston. The Anchormen won themselves a return engagement to Boston against the Beacons in Wednesday's other semifinal.
Plymouth State was 11 minutes away from its second post-season tournament berth in three years before Eastern junior forward Zane Lombardo (Portland, Conn) – moved by necessity to the front line – scored perhaps the most important goal of his soccer career with 10:53 remaining. Freshman midfielder Adam Traxler (Newburyport, Mass.) got his head on a serve into the box and sent it toward the post, where Lombardo -- inserted into the match just four minutes earlier -- followed with a header that he knocked past sophomore keeper Felix Lindeberg (Stockholm, Sweden) from close range.
Coming off three consecutive shutout losses, Plymouth broke up a scoreless game Saturday when junior forward Alex Herbert (Lexington, Mass.) found the underside of the crossbar with a shot from just outside the 18-yard box that lifted the Panthers into the lead with 27 minutes left in regulation.
In overtime, Eastern sophomore keeper Greg Walton (Brunswick, Maine) twice kept the ball out of the back of the net by tipping it over the crossbar to preserve the shutout. The first came when a ball was played to him by an Eastern defender with 4:30 left and the second with five seconds left when he leaped to push a long shot by junior defender Graham Hughes (Gilford, N.H.) out of danger.
(Courtesy of Eastern Connecticut Sports Information)
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