Springfield, MA --- With penalty kicks even at 1-1 heading into the fourth round, WPI seniors Pavolas Christidis (Fairport, NY) and Ryan Stokes (Fairport, NY) provided go-ahead and game-winning kicks while Tournament Most Outstanding Player Connor Hoeckele (Granby, CT) did the work between the pipes to secure the 2017 NEWMAC Men's Soccer Championship following a scoreless draw with Springfield Sunday at Brock-Affleck Field. The NEWMAC Co-Regular Season Champions also played to a scoreless tie back on October 21.
It is the first NEWMAC men's soccer title for the Engineers (13-5-2), who won the Constitution Athletic Conference crown in 1993, and it will be the program's fourth appearance in the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Championship tournament, and first since the 1992 team that was honored earlier this fall. The Boynton Hillers were also invited in 1976 and 1979. The Pride, who were No. 4 in the November 1st NCAA Regional Rankings, await a potential at-large berth. Both teams' fate will be aired live at 1:30pm Monday on NCAA.com.
WPI senior Brendan Nemes (Kingston, MA) and Springfield senior Douglas Enga (Syosset, NY) converted their first round attempts while both sides were unable to capitalize in the second and third round. Christidis then deposited his attempt before a save by Hoeckele made it 2-1 Engineers, setting up the clinching goal by Stokes.
While Springfield had the only shot on-goal in the overtime sessions, WPI had one wide, one blocked and one go high for the 3-1 advantage. During the first 90 minutes the Pride had a commanding 28-7 margin in shots, including 7-2 on-goal.
Springfield junior Keon Haji (Shrewsbury, MA) led the team with three shots on-goal, featuring the first of the game at 6:09 and back-to-back bids at 50:09 and 50:11. Nemes then capped an intense sequence of events with a team save at 50:23 and had his own chance saved by a waiting keeper at 66:18. Between WPI attempts, senior Danny Murphy (Old Saybrook, CT) sent a free kick right to Hoeckele at 52:31. Senior Reese Petersen (Springfield, NJ) had the best chance of the game for WPI, but his floater went slightly high at 85:45.
WPI's first half saw senior Derrick Naugler (Westford, MA) test junior backstop Stewart Frank (Pittsford, NY) at 25:10 and sophomore Jackson Conroy (Reading, MA) sail a shot 34 seconds later. Hoeckele came up with a huge save and swat on consecutive corners at 41:43 and 42:07. The first resulted in the ball bouncing from player to player until Hoeckele pushed the ball up and over the crossbar while the latter allowed the Pride player access to just the side net.
Hoeckele finished with seven saves in regulation while Frank stopped a pair.
That moment when your team makes the NCAAs for the first time in years... pic.twitter.com/5OrCaDyGTb— WPI Athletics (@WPIAthletics) November 5, 2017