Nov. 3, 2012
2012 Patriot League Men's Soccer Tournament Central
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - It's always fun on the last day of the regular season in Patriot League men's soccer. Saturday was no different.
It took until the very end of the 28th and final regular-season League match for the field of four to get confirmed for the 2012 Men's Soccer Tournament. In the end, host American was joined in the postseason by Bucknell, Colgate and Lafayette.
The top-seeded Eagles will battle No. 4 Bucknell in Friday's first semifinal at 11 a.m., with No. 2 Lafayette going head-to-head with third-seeded Colgate at 2 p.m. The semifinal winners will advance to the championship Sunday, Nov. 11, at 1 p.m. All three matches will take place at American's Reeves Field in Washington, D.C.
The 2012 field is, from a historical standpoint, perhaps the most decorated ever. Lafayette leads the League with six championships, while Colgate has five. Bucknell is tied for third with three titles, and American has a pair. The other six championships are split among Army (three), and Fordham, Holy Cross and Lehigh, with one apiece.
The Eagles qualified for the tournament with last week's 1-0 victory at Lehigh. American not only sewed up a postseason berth, but locked up hosting responsibilities for the second straight season as well. But American's regular-season finale Saturday afternoon at home against Holy Cross on Senior Day wasn't lacking any intensity.
The Crusaders came in a motivated club, needing a victory to wrap up their first postseason berth since 2008. It nearly required extra time to decide a winner, but American's Stephen Hauschield squirted through a scrum and tapped a ball beyond Holy Cross netminder Kevin Wright with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the Eagles to a 1-0 victory. American posted its first undefeated conference record in program history at 5-0-2.
American's triumph also officially clinched tournament berths for Colgate and Lafayette, while it left the door open for Bucknell, Lehigh and even Holy Cross to grab the final bid.
In a theme that would emerge later Saturday, Lafayette and Bucknell went to overtime in Easton. Tom McCutcheon scored just nine seconds into extra time to give the Leopards a 1-0 win, which ultimately secured them the second seed in next week's tournament.
The night's attention shifted to West Point, where Lehigh was on the road visiting Army. The Mountain Hawks had destiny in their hands, as a win would lift them into the tournament. A Lehigh loss would send Holy Cross into the four-team field, while a draw would breathe life into the playoff hopes in Lewisburg.
It was back and forth at Clinton Field, with Lehigh rallying from a pair of one-goal deficits, but in the end Army and the Mountain Hawks finished in a 2-all draw.
As things wrapped up at West Point, Colgate and Navy found themselves knotted in a 2-all tie of their own heading into extra time. A draw or Raider triumph would return Bucknell to the postseason after last year's hiatus following back-to-back titles in 2009-10, while Holy Cross needed a Navy victory to make travel plans.
With all eyes on Annapolis, Ryan Groffie right-footed the game-winner in the 109th minute as Colgate edged Navy 3-2. The Raiders, who would have been the No. 3 seed regardless, picked up some momentum entering the postseason while enabling Bucknell to thread the needle into the four-team field.
American is in the League tournament for the ninth time in 12 years since joining the conference in 2001. The Eagles will make their fifth consecutive appearance in the postseason, and are seeking their third League championship and first since 2004.
Defending champion Colgate makes the postseason for the third straight year and seventh time in the last eight tries. The Raiders are in familiar territory, having qualified for their 16th tournament, the second-most of any League program. Three of Colgate's five titles overall have come in the last five years.
After making eight straight tournament appearances, Lafayette missed the postseason each of the last two seasons by just a whisker. The Leopards return to the four-team field in 2012 hungry after barely missing out in 2010 and '11, and are making their League-best 18th trip to the postseason. Lafayette's last title came in 2005, coincidentally in a tournament hosted at American.
Bucknell has had a lot of recent success, winning titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010. It took until the final day of the regular season for the Bison to get into the four-team field in 2010, and they're looking for another similar run this time around.