UR sends Brockport packing, headed to Sweet 16

Courtesy of UofRathletics.com

The University of Rochester advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Division III men’s soccer playoffs for the second straight year after posting a 2-0 victory over The College at Brockport on Sunday evening at Edwin Fauver Stadium.

This victory means Rochester will play Eastern University of Pennsylvania in the sectional semifinals. The other game of the doubleheader will pair Cortland State University against defending national champion Messiah College. The sectionals will be played at Messiah on November 17-18 in Mechanicsburg, PA

The win increased Rochester’s record to 14-2-2. Brockport finished with a mark of 16-5-2. The 16 wins are a single-season record for the Golden Eagles.

Head coach Chris Apple spread the congratulations around. “Everybody stepped up tonight, and the seniors were especially strong,” he said. “Brockport played at a really high intensity level.”

Bryce Ikeda scored both Rochester goals – eight minutes apart midway through the second half. Goalkeeeper Patrick Conway made four saves and first-year defender Will Eisold headed a ball off the goalline after Brockport’s Matt Oliviera managed to get his shot past Conway in the center of the box. The shutout was the ninth individually for Conway. Ikeda boosted his goal total to seven. He leads Rochester in scoring with 20 points on seven goals and six assists.

Saturday evening’s first round win over Mount St. Mary College was played at a completely different pace with Rochester maintaining possession and building attacks, then getting back to defend.

“I thought it was a track meet,” Apple said. “Brockport went toe-to-toe making it tough at each end.”

The Golden Eagles defended their penalty area well, blocking shots and cutting out crosses. Goalkeeper Joseph Romano made eight saves. When they took the ball away, they went the other way, often at high speed.

Conway saw that attacking style the best. “When they counter, it’s the front eight guys going, not just three or four,” he said. “They did a good job with the ball to earn a couple of dangerous chances.”

The match was less than 20 minutes old when Rochester’s Lucas Loecher was shielding the ball as a long lead pass was rolling slowly to the end line. A Brockport attacker distracted him briefly, cut around him to get the ball, then lined it across the face of goal where it was partially cleared before AJ Sinclair drilled a low shot pushed away for a corner kick. On that sequence, Jeff Hibbard (Hilton) played it to Oliveira whose shot was high.

With more than 16 minutes left in the first half, Jason Hayes outpaced the UR defense and roared in on a breakaway, but Conway blocked it wide for another corner. Matthew Stefaniw (Eastridge) had a chance in the last three minutes of the first period, heading a corner kick from Chris Kinsley over the crossbar.

Rochester had its share of opportunities as well. In the fifth minute, Ikeda lined a cross from right wing onto the head of Josh Cooley, but his point-blank header was straight at Romano. Ikeda was there again six minutes later, hitting a free kick from the left corner of the penalty area towards the low left corner, but Romano got to it.

“It’s a really great UofR team,” said Brockport coach Gary LaPietra. “At halftime, we talked about whoever got the first goal would win the game. UR played better in the second half.”

It was Kinsley who came close to serving a go-ahead goal for Brockport. Five minutes  after the restart, he drove a free kick from the midfield stripe into the center of the goalmouth where Connor DeSantis headed it straight at Conway. Later in the period, Milan Fatschel broke up a cross through the UR penalty area from Hibbard and Conway was able to grab it when it was served back in by a player overlapping down the right touchline.

The first goal came suddenly. Nik Angyal had it alongside the right touchline and he drove it for the center of the penalty area. Ikeda tracked it all the way, ran into the box and headed it into the left corner of the goal in the 66th minute.

“Yesterday, I had a few shanks (on shots) and I spent time thinking about that,” Ikeda said. “I kept telling myself the next shot is going in. Nik got it wide and as he sent it in, I kept thinking this is coming to me. The goalkeeper was a little more central (on the line) and I wanted to put it where he’s not.”

Conway had a terrific view from 100 yards away. “I can’t help the ball go in the net,” he said. He knew Brockport’s offense would go into a higher gear. “They can score in bunches,” he said, “so we ha dto keep focused.”

Ikeda knew it was far from over. “Very high intensity,” he said. “We have to be on attack, and then sprint back on defense.”

Rochester’s defense halted two good chances for Stefaniw in less than a minute shortly after the first goal. His right wing cross was cleared away by the defense and when it came back to him, his shot from 15 yards was right at Conway.

The second Yellowjacket goal came from an outstanding shot by Ikeda after a terrific play by Romano. UR’s Mitch Volis hooked a ball into the goalmouth from left wing. With too much of a crowd in the box, Romano punched it wide to his left. Ikeda ran at it and volleyed it into the top left corner of the net in the 74th minute.

“It was a good moment to take a breath,” Ikeda said, “but we knew we didn’t have the game at 2-0.”

“That was a great finish by them,” LaPietra said of the second goal. “Our goalkeeper did everything he could to push that cross away.”

Conway and Eisold denied Brockport a score I the last 12 minutes. A point-blank header by Oliviera was headed off the line by Eisold with 12 minutes left. With less than six minutes to go, Conway charged out of the crease to punch the ball away before Hibbard could get to it.

“We played two completely different teams (in the tournament),” LaPietra said. “St. Lawrence played at one pace last night [Brockport won, 2-1] and Rochester played more athletically. Teams don’t usually play our style against us. Their technical skill on the ball is excellent. I wish them luck in the tournament.”

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