Published: November 12, 2015
The men’s soccer team made Scranton history Saturday.
The team won its first conference championship in 30 years. It defeated No. 6 Elizabethtown College 3-2. This was also the team’s first Landmark Conference championship in the conference’s nine years.
Down 2-1 in the 75th minute, Scranton scored two goals in 23 seconds to take a 3-2 lead.
Head coach Matthew Pivirotto said he was ready to change the formation to get a late equalizer just before Scranton tied the game. His team has never scored to tie, then scored to take the lead so quickly.
“Not in that quick of succession, no not really,” Pivirotto laughed. “It was a pretty unique situation to see that.”
After not scoring a goal during the regular season, sophomore forward Connor Casey scored twice in the post season. He scored the game-winning goal Saturday and also scored a goal in the semifinals Nov. 3 to put the team up 2-0 over Susquehanna University, also in the 75th minute.
“It’s a great feeling, it’s unlike any other,” Casey said about his game-winner. “Especially to score my first goal the game before that. Just breaking through finally after struggling all year not to really score, but you’ve gotta hit your stride at the right time and I think we’re doing that and we want to keep this going.”
In the teams’ regular-season meeting, also at Etown, on Halloween Scranton was spooked 2-0. Senior forward Mike Romano and senior left back Ryan Smith, however, did not play in that game.
Seconds after junior Jimmy Caulfield, the MVP of the conference playoffs, scored the tying goal from junior Henry Sanchez’s assist, Smith assisted on Casey’s final goal.
Smith stole an Etown pass and headed the other way right after play restarted.
“(I) Made a couple moves, beat one or two guys, I was in a spot where I saw Connor in on goal,” Smith said. “There was a little gap that I could play the ball and I tried to put it in the right spot, gave Connor a chance and he took a great touch and just buried it home.”
To start the game, Etown’s (7-0 in conference) senior co-captain Martin Fevre scored in the 15th minute. Scranton’s junior goalkeeper co-captain Eric Hintz said Etown came out strong to start the game.
“I just felt like we had to survive a wave,” Hintz said. “The first 15 minutes they had probably 4, 5, 6 good shots, but I knew it would calm down sooner or later, we would get our composure and find the back of the net.”
Junior midfielder Mike Bergen said he wasn’t surpised the team bounced back from the early deficet.
“My freshman and sophomore year that’s something we were missing where when we went down, it was tough for us to come back,” Bergen said. “Mental toughness is what that shows.”
Just before halftime, first-team all-conference junior defender Pat Codispoti scored the equalizer for Scranton.
This was the first goal Scranton scored against Etown in five halves and two overtimes dating back to last season.
Senior co-captain Mike Dorney said this goal gave the team new life.
“Getting the goal right before halftime was big,” Dorney said. “We felt like we really could beat them and they were definitely vulnerable to giving up some goals.”
Scranton found itself down again in the 48th minute when Etown’s senior co-captain Shane Votto scored to make the game 2-1.
Thirty-three minutes later when Caulfield tied the game, he said the team regained confidence.
“It was good for us to respond to their goal knowing that we were having the better of the play,” Caulfield said. “And to get that tying goal—once we got that we knew we were going to go on to win the game.”
Less than thirty seconds later, Casey launched Scranton into the lead. Coach Pivirotto said he knew Casey, who came into Scranton as a defender, had big-game potential on offense.
“Even in last season and in the spring when we played Connor up top we always noticed that he would put himself in good spots and made good decisions the majority of the time,” Pivirotto said. “Both goals he’s scored in the last two games are goals he’s capable of scoring, but he’s also put himself in good spots to score them too.”
Etown’s sports communication department was stunned after the loss. The title of its online game recap reads, “Scranton scores twice in 23 seconds to take Landmark title from No. 6 Blue Jays.”
The last time the Royals were in the post season was 2012 when they lost 1-0 in overtime to No. 14 Susquehanna University. That team got an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament and advanced to the Elite 8 before losing 3-0 to Messiah College.
Pivirotto said this year’s team does not have the merits of the 2012 team, but has fought for the recognition it deserves.
“We were winning games all year in 2012, we were ranked in the region one or two almost all season. This year we weren’t,” he said. “Maybe we lost to a Haverford or a Dickinson, but we saw really good things and made us feel good. We could play with a lot of teams.”
The team looks to duplicate that 2012 NCAA tournament run when it travels to St. Lawrence University (14-3-2) in Canton, New York to play Little East Conference champions University of Massachusetts Boston (16-4) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Pivirotto said since UMass Boston has over 50 goals on the year, Scranton’s defense must hold strong. Pivirotto “likes our chances” with Scranton’s speed and athleticism.
If the Royals win Saturday they play the winner of St. Lawrence, in its 20th national tournament, and The Sage Colleges (13-3-3) from Albany, New York.
Senior Dorney said he is excited to continue playing after surprising the conference with a Landmark Conference championship.
“At this point now for us this is just bonus soccer. There’s really no pressure. Preseason we were picked to finish fifth in the conference, not even be in the playoffs,” Dorney said. “It’s just going out there and seeing what we can do.”
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