Viavattene pushes Naz to E8 title game

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HOBOKEN, N.J. – Junior midfielder Francesco Viavattene (McQuaid) scored the game’s only goal in the 20th minute Saturday to lift third-seeded Nazareth to a 1-0 men’s soccer victory over second-seeded Alfred in the semifinals of the Empire 8 Conference Tournament at Stevens.

The victory, Nazareth’s 12th of the season (most since 2006) at Stevens’ wind-swept DeBaun Athletic Complex, enabled the Golden Flyers to advance to Sunday’s conference title match at 1 p.m. They will meet the winner of Saturday’s second semifinal between top-seeded Stevens and fourth-seeded St. John Fisher. The winner of Sunday’s game gains an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Flyers will be seeking their first conference title since 2006. Nazareth is 12-6-1 overall, while Alfred is 6-13.

Saturday’s match was physical and evenly played. Each team was assessed 17 fouls and two yellow cards. The goal came on Nazareth’s first shot of the game on a blast by Viavattene, who struck the ball with outside of his right foot, from outside the 18. The ball tailed away from Alfred goalkeeper Joe Gonzalez and settled into the upper right corner. Sophomore Jake Adams gained the assist after redirecting the ball to Viavattene with a chest pass.

Nazareth had two other scoring chances later in the half, each on direct kicks. Adams drilled a right-footed shot over the crossbar in the 34th minute. Then, with time winding down, Sam Smyth (Rush-Henrietta) blasted a shot that was punched aside by Alfred keeper Joe Gonzalez.

Both teams had chances in the second half as well. Smyth probably had the best chance for Nazareth in the 82nd mnute, but his point blank shot was turned away by Gonzalez, who came off his line to cut down the angle. Adams generated six of Nazareth’s 13 shots, including another free kick in the second half that curved wide of the right goal post.

Alfred finished with 11 shots and seven corner kicks. Nazareth keeper Brian Wilkin (Hilton) was steady throughout in collecting four saves for his ninth shutout of the season and 16th of his career.

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