WASHINGTON - The fourth seeded Juniata men's soccer team used three straight goals to knock off top-seeded Catholic 3-1 in the Landmark Conference Semifinal in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Nov. 7.
Juniata (13-5-2) avenged an earlier loss to the Cardinals (12-5-2) during the regular season, as CUA blanked the Eagles 2-0 on October 26.
In the first semifinal game of the day, Juniata jumped out to an early lead when the Eagles earned a corner kick just 5:28 into the game. Aaron Kulig hit a ball just inside the 6-yard box and connected with Nick Weit whose header found the back of the net for the first score of the game.
It appeared the score would stand as the teams were headed for the halftime intermission, however Dani Meyer-Arrivilla broke free down the right flank and crossed the ball into the box for Nick Stone-Weiss who collected the pass and beat Torsten Meuschke (Gaithersburg, Md./Gaithersburg) for a 2-0 lead with 1:45 left in the first half.
Ben Fleri (College Park, Md./DeMatha) had a golden opportunity to cut the lead in half with 19 seconds to play but Jonathan Phillips made an incredible point blank save to preserve the first half shutout for Juniata.
Today's 2-0 halftime deficit marked the first time in 12 games that Catholic was behind heading into the second half.
The Eagles came out of the break the same way they ended the first half, scoring within the first two minutes of play. Robby Higgins cleaned up a scramble in the box to push the Juniata lead to 3-0 at the 46:12 mark.
Catholic did not give up, as Ian Smith (Maple Glen, Pa./Upper Dublin) put the team on his back and dribbled deep into Eagle territory. The senior ripped a shot from the right side just outside of the goalbox past Phillips to put the Cardinals on the board at the 52:35 mark.
With plenty of time left in the game, CUA continued to attack though the Juniata defense held its own and shutdown each of the Catholic advances. A takedown in the Eagle goalbox led to a Catholic penalty kick with under 15 minutes to play. Smith stepped up to the plate looking for his second goal of the game but missed wide right for the Cardinals.
For the game, the statistics were very even, shots were tied a nine a piece, as were corner kicks at three for each team.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the No. 24 ranked Cardinals saw their reign on top of the Landmark Conference come to an end. Juniata, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, will travel to the winner of No. 2 Susquehanna vs. No. 3 Merchant Marine for the championship game on Saturday.
Catholic, also ranked No. 3 in the Mid-Atlantic region, must now wait to find out if they will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
For more information on CUA men's soccer, visit the official athletics website www.cuacardinals.com