Providence, R.I. – The impressive run through the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament for the sixth-seeded Albertus Magnus College men's soccer team came to end on Saturday with a 1-0 setback to No. 1 seed Johnson & Wales in the conference championship game at the Scott's Miracle Gro Athletic Complex in windy conditions.
The loss snapped a two-match road winning streak for the Falcons as the visitors end the year with an 11-9 overall record. The Wildcats improved to 17-4 on the year with the victory and earned the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. The win also marked the third straight GNAC title for JWU.
Johnson & Wales freshman midfielder Teagan Drake broke a scoreless tie in the 79th minute with a blast from 20-yards out for the eventual game-winner. Classmate Tucker MacPhearson set the play up with a nice pass to Drake who finished past a diving effort from Albertus Magnus sophomore goalkeeper Griffin Volta (Orange, Conn.) to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. Drake's marker was his sixth of the season, as he took a feed from MacPhearson and finished in the lower right-hand corner.
Trailing by one and going into the wind, the Falcons had a pair of opportunities late in regulation. In the 88th minute of action, sophomore forward Matt Stoll (Shelton, Conn.) fired a shot from just inside the box that was gloved out of the air by Johnson & Wales senior goalkeeper Nick Tolman.
With just over a minute left in the contest, Albertus Magnus had one final rush, but a shot off the foot of sophomore defender Alex Perez (Hamden, Conn.) from 25-yards out sailed high over the crossbar.
Going with the wind, the Wildcats held off the late rushes of the guests to earn the victory.
During the scoreless first half, both teams traded chances. Playing with the heavy win, the Falcons controlled much of the tempo and possession with their first scoring threat coming when junior midfielder Alexis Garcia (West Haven, Conn.) was fouled just outside the Wildcat box. On the ensuing free kick, junior midfielder Alex Zapata (Hamden, Conn.) fired a shot that was blocked by the leaping Johnson & Wales wall of defenders.
Later in the frame, a through ball sent AMC sophomore forward Justyn Broderick (Orange, Conn.) in uncontested and his bid was turned aside by Tolman.
The best scoring opportunity for the hosts during the opening 45 minutes came in the 37th minute as a trio of shots from the Wildcats in the box were blocked by Falcon defenders. Off a corner kick from Drake, Johnson & Wales gained possession, but were unable to get a shot on target through traffic. In the first frame, JWU held a slight, 7-6, edge in shots with Broderick's shot being the only one goal.
Between the pipes, Volta made four saves, including a pair of highlight reel stops in the second half, in a losing effort for the Falcons. On the opposite end, Tolman turned aside all three shots he faced to earn his sixth shutout of the fall.
The contest was the 14th decided by one goal or less this season for AMC, with the Falcons posting a 7-7 mark in those tilts.
En route to the title game, Albertus Magnus upset No. 3 seed Saint Joseph's (Me.), 2-1, in overtime and outlasted No. 2 seed Mount Ida, 3-2. Both wins came on the road for the Falcons as AMC advanced to the GNAC Championship for the first time since taking home the title in 2012.