Newton, Mass. – For the second straight contest, junior midfielder Alex Zapata (Hamden, Conn.) scored the game-winning goal to lead the No. 6 seed Albertus Magnus College men's soccer team past No. 2 seed Mount Ida, 3-2, on Wednesday afternoon in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament Semifinals at Alumni Field.
With their second straight post-season road win, the Falcons improve to 11-8 on the year and will face the winner of this evening's tilt between No. 1 seed Johnson & Wales and No. 4 seed Norwich in the GNAC Championship this Saturday. The Mustangs saw their nine-game home winning streak come to end with the setback to drop to 12-6-1 overall.
The Falcons never trailed in the high-scoring affair to avenge a 2-1 setback at Mount Ida earlier this season.
Between the pipes, reigning GNAC Goalkeeper of the Week, Griffin Volta (Orange, Conn.), made seven saves, including three in the second half, to earn his eighth win of the autumn for Albertus Magnus. On the opposite end, sophomore netminder Riley Ford turned aside two shots in a losing effort for Mount Ida.
Albertus Magnus opened the scoring just over 12 minutes into play as junior midfielder Matt Mueller (Cheshire, Conn.) netted his fifth tally of the season. Off a corner from classmate Alexis Garcia (West Haven, Conn.), Mueller connected with his head to send the ball deflecting off the crossbar and bouncing past the goal line. With the high, lofting corner to the far post, Garcia recorded his team-leading fourth assist of the year.
Twenty-Two minutes later, sophomore forward Matt Stoll (Shelton, Conn.) gave the guests a two-goal advantage with his first marker of the fall. He collected a loose ball in traffic in front of Ford and found the back of the net in the 34th minute of play.
Before the end of the first half, Mount Ida stole the momentum away from the Falcons courtesy of goal from freshman midfielder Alexi Flores. Off a deflection in the box, Flores found the ball on his foot and beat Volta for his fifth marker of the season. The goal capped the scoring in the opening half, as the visitors took a 2-1 edge into halftime.
In the 59th minute, Zapata made it a two-goal game once again and gave the Falcons some breathing room with his team-best 10th tally of the year. Sophomore midfielder Justyn Broderick (Orange, Conn.) sent a perfectly placed through ball to Zapata who finished at the far post to make it 3-1 in favor of Albertus.
Just under four minutes later, the Mustangs pulled back within one following strike from senior Carlos Martinez. With Martinez charging in on a breakaway, Volta came off his line and Mount Ida capitalized.
Down the stretch, the Falcons held the hosts at bay to advance to their first GNAC title game since 2012.
The contest was the 13th decided by one goal or less this season for AMC, with the Falcons posting a 7-6 mark in those tilts.
The hosts held a slight, 19-17, advantage in shots and took six corners compared to five for Albertus Magnus. The hard-fought contest saw 26 fouls whistled and four yellow cards handed out.
The win was the 16th in program history in GNAC Tournament play for the Falcons, as the visitors improved to 2-1 against the Mustangs in league tournament action.
Albertus Magnus returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 7, with their sights set on the third GNAC title in program history. The Falcons won the league crown in 1996 and most recently in 2012. Whether the team squares off with JWU or Norwich, AMC will look to avenge a shutout loss. Both squads topped Albertus Magnus, 1-0, in physical games earlier this season.