WORCESTER -- Freshman Francesco Valagussa (Arlington, MA) blasted home a shot from 20 yards out with just 90 seconds remaining to lift top-seeded and host WPI to a dramatic 1-0 shutout over fourth-seeded Clark in a NEWMAC Men's Soccer Tournament semifinal Thursday at a rainy Alumni Stadium.
With the victory, the Engineers advance to Saturday's NEWMAC Tournament championship game where they will host second-seeded Babson, a 2-1 winner in overtime earlier Thursday over third-seeded Wheaton. Kickoff time will be announced later Thursday night or Friday morning.
WPI, ranked fifth in the latest NCAA Division III New England rankings, runs it unbeaten string to 10 games (8-0-2) and is now 12-2-4 on the season. Saturday will mark the Engineers' third appearance in the NEWMAC championship contest in the last six years (2014, 2017, 2019). Clark, who defeated MIT 2-1 in a quarterfinal Tuesday, sees its season come to an end with a 12-7 mark.
The only goal of the game came following a corner from the foot of senior Mark Calnan (Winchester, MA). The service found the head of Luke Reiniger (Rowley, MA) and was blocked by a Clark defender and bounced to the waiting foot of Valagussa, who blasted a shot into the left corner of the net for his third goal of the season
The first half was closely contested with Clark attempting seven of the 13 shots. Before the goal, WPI had the best scoring chance of the second half when Paul Beatty (Halifax, MA) hit the left post and Jackson Conroy (Reading, MA) rebound was cleared off the line by Clark's Charlie Lane (Southboro, MA).
WPI junior netminder Rufus Adams (Duxbury, MA) finished with five stops for his 10th shutout of the season and 16th clean sheet of his career. Clark keeper Melvin Vincent (Rochester, MA) collected 10 saves for the Cougars.
The Engineers held advantage in shots (24-13) and shots-on-goal (11-5) while also maintaining a slim edge in corner kicks (5-3).