By Corey Pollnow
Last season the Central Men’s soccer team was unable to participate in the Northeast Conference tournament because of sub-standard APR scores, despite finishing fourth in the standings. This year the Blue Devils were predicted to finish second in the NEC preseason soccer poll, but on Friday evening they proved the pundits wrong and defeated St. Francis (Pa.) 1-0 to win the NEC regular season championship.
As a result of winning the NEC regular season championship, Central will host the NEC tournament on Nov. 15 and 17 for the first time since Shaun Green became head coach in 1985. With an upstanding record of 6-0 in the NEC (9-7-1 overall) and one game remaining in the regular season versus Bryant, CCSU has the opportunity to finish undefeated in conference play.
“We worked so hard last year and it was sad that we couldn’t go to the tournament. It means a little bit extra to win it tonight,” said Steven Walmsley after clinching the first seed and home field the Red Flash.
The game winning goal versus SFU was setup by a sequence of passes which led to Zach Zurita being fouled in the penalty box in the 56th minute. The referee awarded Central a penalty kick and Green chose his sure footed senior Manny Nobre to seal the victory under pressure. Green knew all along that Nobre would be taking the penalty kick. “I texted Manny last night and I told him I had a dream he was going to score. I wanted to beef him up a bit, but I knew he was going to take the kick anyway because I have a lot of confidence in him,” said Green.
“I started running up to the ball looking to the left and before I went to take it I shifted my body to the right,” said Nobre who struck the ball into the bottom left of the goal and fooled SFU’s goalkeeper, Daniel Valcicak, into diving to the wrong side of the net.
Josef Abele saved four shots to earn his seventh save of the season and he enters the last week of regular season play ranked 19th in the country with a save percentage of .831. “We’re not league champs without Joe,” said Zurita.
Seniors Jose Gamboa, Eddy Bogle, and Nobre were honored prior to their 2-1 victory on Sunday afternoon against Robert Morris. Bogle scored his fifth goal of the season and more importantly, the game winning goal in the 54 minute of play.
Neco Brett scored his 13th goal of the season for Robert Morris in the 59th minute to reduce the deficit to one goal. Despite a late flurry of shots and chances from Robert Morris, the Blue Devils were able to hold on for the victory. Abele saved eight shots in 90 minutes and has 59 saves in 13 games this season.
Follow the Blue Devils live stream on NEC Front Row as they look to finish the season with a perfect 7-0 conference record on Sunday at 1 p.m. versus Bryant.
Men’s Soccer Wins NEC And Earns Home Field
By Corey Pollnow