By Michael Otero
The men’s soccer team (15-4-2) took on the NYIT Bears (14-3-1) in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer Championship on Thursday, Nov. 13, at Manchester, New Hampshire. The Pioneers, looking for revenge against the Bears who ended their winning streak a week ago in the East Coast Conference final, rebounded with an impressive 2-0 win.
The fifth-seeded Pioneers got the scoring started in the 13th minute of the contest. Junior midfielder Per Forgaard sent a cross to fellow junior midfielder Matias Ruiz and the combination worked perfectly, as Ruiz was able to find the back of the net to give the Pioneers the one-goal advantage. The Pioneers went into halftime with the 1-0 lead, as both sides picked up the defensive intensity.
As the second half rolled around, it was clear that the Pioneers were the clear aggressors, outshooting the Bears and being more accurate on their shots. LIU had six shots on goal compared to just one for the Bears. In the 74th minute, the duo of Ruiz and Forgaard teamed up again. This time, Ruiz sent the cross to Forgaard and he connected for the goal with a beautiful bicycle kick. That was all the offense the Pioneers needed, as the Green and Gold closed out the 2-0 victory. Junior goal keeper Jesper Malmstrom kept the opposition off the scoreboard for another shutout.
The Pioneers returned to action on Saturday, Nov. 15, when they took on the No. One ranked Penmen from Southern New Hampshire University (17-1-2). The Pioneers, who showed perseverance all match, came up clutch in the closing minutes of the contest.
The Penmen came out of the gate strong, and capitalized in the 13th minute when junior back Dominic Samuel scored off a free kick. With momentum on their side, SNHU scaled up the aggression and put another shot in the back of the net. The Penmen took their two-goal lead into halftime.
Well into the second half and still down by two goals, the Pioneers needed a spark. They got one in the 89th minute; senior forward Eivind Austboe notched his 16th goal of the season off a scramble in front of the net to keep hopes of a win alive. With less than 30 seconds before the final whistle, Forgaard crossed the ball into the box where freshman forward and ECC Rookie of the Year Jason Lampkin cleaned up the mess and tied the match with a one-timer that beat junior goalie Dom DiMaggio. The two teams took a brief break and hit the field again for overtime.
In the overtime periods, both teams had their opportunities, but neither team was able to come through with a goal so penalty kicks were going to decide the winner. After Austboe gave LIU a 1-0 lead, Malmstrom stopped junior back Jonathon Lupinelli’s attempt. Over the next two rounds, the Penmen took a 2-1 lead as DiMaggio stopped back- to-back attempts.
After both squads converted in the fourth round, junior midfielder Alex Billington tied the shootout at three. With the match on the line on the ensuing kick, Malmstrom stood strong and came up with the save to keep the shootout going—and the Pioneer season alive. The Pioneers led off each of
the next three rounds with successful chances, and clinched the hard-fought victory when graduate back Callium Williams clanked his shot off the crossbar in the eighth round.
Head coach Andreas Lindberg and the Pioneers will hit the road to face Merrimack College in the East Regional Final on Thursday, Nov. 20, with kick-off slated for 7 p.m.