Back-to-back! CUA repeats as Landmark Conference champs

KINGS POINT, N.Y. – The CUA men's soccer team captured its second straight Landmark Conference championship with a shootout victory over Merchant Marine Academy on Saturday afternoon.  After the teams tied 1-1 in regulation the Cardinals defeated the Mariners 3-0 in the shootout to win the title.

The teams were evenly matched through as Merchant Marine Academy took 14 shots and CUA was credited with 11.  The Mariners outshot the Cardinals 9-2 in the opening half, but CUA had the upper hand in the second half and overtime.

Quinn Daly made seven saves for the Cardinals on the day and Gary Poulin stopped four shots for the Mariners.

"It feels great (to win the championship)," Cardinals head coach Travis Beauchamp said afterwards.  "It took a lot of hard work to get here, but it feels really good to get this one."

Merchant Marine Academy controlled the early action, as the Mariners took the first four shots of the match.  CUA's first shot did not come until the 23:02 mark, but it was a good one, as Mike Brennan took advantage of Poulin falling to the ground and fired a shot into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

The lead was short-lived though as the Mariners came back just five minutes later and tied things at one on Ryan Silveira's goal at the 28:45 mark.

The teams took only two more shots for the remainder of the half, neither of which did any damage, and the match headed into halftime knotted at one.

"I thought they controlled the action in the first half, to be honest," Beauchamp said.  "We were probably fortunate to be tied at one at halftime, but I thought after halftime that our guys really picked it up and played our game."

Brian Maher and Mike DiMarco took a pair of shots just minutes apart early in the second for CUA, but one went wide and the other was high.  Merchant Marine Academy then came down the other end and Andrew MacKenzie looked to put the home team ahead, but his shot was stopped by Daly.

As the second half moved along, it became apparent that defense would rule the day.  In the last 35 minutes of action, the teams combined for only four shots.  After 90 minutes of play and the score knotted at one, the game headed for overtime.

In the first extra session, CUA took the only shot, which came from Nick Sylvester off an Ian Smith corner kick at the 98:06 mark.  The attempt went wide, the score remained tied, and the teams moved into a second OT.

Smith looked for the game-winner early in the second extra session, but his attempt was high.  Soon after Sylvester sent a corner kick in to DiMarco, but his header was blocked, leaving the score tied at one.  There was only one more shot attempt per team for the remainder of the session, setting up a winner take-all shootout.

The Mariners were up first in the shootout, as Daly sent back Kurt Olsen's attempt.  Kevin Romano then stepped up and he fired a shot into the back of the net for a 1-0 CUA lead.  After a second miss by the Mariners, Sylvester made it 2-0 for the Cardinals and they began to sense a championship was coming their way.  Merchant Marine Academy then missed their third attempt and captain Kevin Duffy stepped up with a chance to win it for CUA.  His shot flew into the net, sending the Cardinals into a wild celebration, and lifting them to their second straight title.

"Quinn made a huge save on the first shot and then we send a freshman (Romano) out for our first attempt and he nailed it," Beauchamp said.  "That really set a great tone for our guys."

Beauchamp then spoke about the long road the Cardinals took this season to get the championship; CUA had lost three straight at one point.  "At times we weren't sure this would be possible," the Cardinals leader said.  "It wasn't something we were really looking at, so we set small goals for ourselves.  First, we wanted to see if we could just qualify for the conference tournament.  Next, it was can we get into the championship match?  And after winning that game, I think our guys for the first time started to believe that we could win the whole thing."

He continued, "It's a great group this team.  They're very laid back and I think that's attributed to the fact that we have a lot of seniors.  They don't get rattled too easily.  It's a really good group and they deserve this."

CUA will now wait to learn its NCAA Tournament fate.  Check back to to see where the Cardinals will play next.

"I think last year we were happy to just be there (in the tournament)," Beauchamp said.  "We have a different mindset now going into this year's tournament.  We've been talking about taking this program to another level and that starts with a strong performance in NCAA's.  We need to take that next step."