The University’s men’s soccer team won its second straight Landmark Conference Championship Saturday, solidifying its spot in the Division III NCAA Tournament.
An early goal by junior forward Connor Casey and stout defensive play lifted the Royals to a 1-0 win over top-seeded Elizabethtown College, an opponent The University has traveled to beat in the championship match for the second straight year.
“It was a battle the whole 90 minutes, even though we went up early,” Casey said. “(Elizabethtown) never quit … We had to go in 100 percent or else we could’ve ended up on the wrong side, but we were victorious.”
The University, which recorded eight shutouts in the regular season, proved that its defense can play with the best. After the 10th minute goal, the Royals held strong and saved all five shots on goal.
That only score came off a corner kick from senior midfielder Michael Berger. The ball made its way into the box where other senior midfielder Tim DiBisceglie directed a header in the direction of Casey. Casey then sent the ball sailing into the back of the net.
“It’s an awesome feeling. It’s one of the best feelings in the world, considering we did it last year for the first time and this year to follow up in the same fashion and beat E-town on their home field,” Casey said. “It was a great feeling when the final whistle blew.”
With the win, the Royals now boast a 14-3-1 record and will play Penn State-Behrend in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Last week, Behrend was ranked No. 25 in the nation and forcefully won the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Championship. Elizabethtown fell to 13-3-2 and drew Vasser College in the first round of the tournament.
The University dropped tough games to Elizabethtown and Drew in early October before finishing the regular season 5-0-1 and facing the same two opponents in the Landmark Conference playoffs.
Casey said this resurgence is a showing of the team’s resilience.
“We needed to regroup and we needed to refocus and I think we came back strong,” Casey said. “I think that is attributed to the upperclassmen leadership, and we have a lot of seniors and a lot of juniors that have been here before and they lead the young guys the right way.”
After winning the Landmark Conference championship last year, Bergen said the team has had higher goals from the beginning of this season
“We always said we’re not defending the Landmark Conference championship; we’re attacking it again,” Bergen said. “And at this point it’s just pushing as far as we can in the NCAA Tournament.”
This is the 16th appearance in the NCAA Tournament for The University. The Royals will travel to State University of New York at Cortland to play Behrend Saturday at 7:30 p.m.