Scranton Claims Conference Crown And First NCAA Appearance
TOWSON, Md.—Three weeks ago, The University of Scranton was close to sitting out the Landmark Conference tournament for the second straight year.
Boy, did things turn around quickly.
The Royals beat the conference's top two teams on consecutive weekends—one at home in overtime and the other on the road—and opened tournament play Wednesday afternoon with a 12-9 victory over Catholic University at Fitzpatrick Field.
Scranton culminated its late-season surge Saturday afternoon by defeating defending champion Goucher College, 12-8, to claim its first-ever Landmark title and advance to the NCAA Division III championships for the first time in the program's 25-year history. It is also Scranton's second conference title and first since winning the Hudson League championship in 1995 in its previous affiliation with the Middle Atlantic States Collegiate Athletic Corporation.
The unlikely hero turned out to be junior attacker Daniel Slade (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East), who scored a career-high five goals and finished with an assist as Scranton won its fourth straight game to improve to 9-7.
The Royals also received two goals and two assists from sophomore attacker Taylor Nelson (Chester Springs, Pa./Downingtown East), a goal and an assist apiece from senior midfielder Keenan Dowd (Binghamton, N.Y./Seton Catholic) and senior attacker Sean Coleman (Philadelphia, Pa./Roman Catholic), and a goal each from junior midfielder Mike Rufo (Broomall, Pa./Haverford School), junior attacker Kevin Brier (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks West), and senior attacker Robert Pantages (Roseland, N.J./West Essex).
Goucher, which likely ends its 2011 season with an 11-6 record, was led by sophomore midfielder John Curry (Yarmouth, Maine/Yarmouth) with two goals and junior midfielder Matt Lynch (Ivyland, Pa./LaSalle College) contributed a goal and two assists.
It was expected to be a nip-and-tuck affair since five of the previous six meeting were decided by one goal, including two games that went into overtime and another that was decided in double overtime.
Instead, Slade keyed two scoring runs that kept the Gophers on their heels throughout the afternoon.
He scored twice during a 5-0 spurt that erased an early 2-1 deficit and propelled Scranton to a 6-3 lead by intermission. Late in the third period, he tallied three goals to spark a 4-0 rally over a 13-minute span that stretched a 7-5 advantage into a comfortable 11-6 lead with 6:25 remaining.
Slade wasn't the only one in on the act.
Like he has all season long, Royal junior midfielder Patrick Cefalu (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) dominated the face-offs, winning 14 of 23 attempts, including all seven in the first period and 9 of 13 by intermission.
Then there was junior goalkeeper Ben Worthington (Jenkintown, Pa./Archbishop Wood), who, in just his third start of the season, made a career-high 17 saves, including eight in the first half as Scranton established the tempo of the game.
Defensively, the back line of senior Stephen Buestle (Holland, Pa./Archbishop Wood), junior John McShea (Strafford, Pa./St. Joseph's Preparatory), sophomore Tim Cleary (Shrewsbury, N.J./Christian Brothers Academy) and freshman Ryan Saraceni (Lansdale, Pa./La Salle) held the Gophers to two goals under their season average and their third lowest goal output of the season. Scranton also won the battle of the ground balls, holding a 40-33 advantage.
The field for the 2011 NCAA Division III tournament will be announced Monday.
Story provided by Scranton Sports Information