Courtesy of Nazathletics.com
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Senior Dereck France was named the game MVP after scoring the only goal in the 59th minute Saturday to lift top-seeded Nazareth to a 1-0 men’s soccer victory over Alfred in the championship game of the Empire 8 Conference Tournament.
France’s goal came on a long left-footed shot from about 30 yards away and enabled the Golden Flyers to claim their first conference title since 2006 and their fourth overall. Nazareth extended its unbeaten streak to 13 games (10–0-3), improved to 14-2-3 overall and gained an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament. First-round pairings will be revealed Monday for games to be played next weekend. Alfred, seeking its third E8 title, dropped to 8-12 overall after falling to the Golden Flyers for the second time this season.
Nazareth enjoyed the better of the play throughout, evidenced by advantages in shots (18-5) and corner kicks (7-1). The Saxons, however, managed to keep the Golden Flyers off the scoreboard in the first half and then generated some scoring chances of their own in the second half.
France, a senior defender, had seven assists this season, but had never scored a goal in his career until Saturday’s 59-minute mark. He was able to settle a cross from Adrian Padilla and flicked a left-footed shot that curled away from Alfred keeper Jon Nadolne and settled into the upper left corner of the goal.
Alfred had scoring chances thereafter, but Nazareth goalkeeper Brian Wilkin (Hilton) was equal to the challenge as both of his saves came in the second half of his seventh shutout of the season and 23rd of his career.
Nazareth outshot Alfred 11-0 in the first half and had five corner kicks. The Golden Flyers also had the best scoring chance in the 42nd minute when Sam Smyth (Rush-Henrietta) broke loose past the Alfred defense and blasted a shot off the crossbar.
That near-miss left the Golden Flyers frustrated in their bid to take home the title until France came through. Nazareth also gained shares of the Empire 8 title in 2003 and 2005 before winning it outright in ’06. Nazareth also will be making its third NCAA Tournament appearance after making it in 2005 and 2006.