Men’s soccer earns conference tournament berth with win over No. 13 UNCW

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Men’s soccer earns conference tournament berth with win over No. 13 UNCW

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By Mike Puzzanghera, news staff

Northeastern men’s soccer is back in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament for the first time since 2014, thanks to first-year forward/midfielder Tyler Welch.

Welch’s goal in the 67th minute gave the Huskies (6-8-1 overall, 3-4-1 CAA) a 1-0 lead over the visiting No. 13 University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks (12-4-2, 5-1-2). The Huskies held on for the last 24 minutes to give themselves the sole remaining spot in the conference tournament.

After receiving a pass from first-year midfielder Jacob Marin-Thomson on the left side of the pitch, Welch cut inside to set the shot up on his right foot. His curling strike flew towards the near post. UNCW senior goalkeeper Ryan Cretens could not keep it out, despite getting a fingertip to it.

The goal was Welch’s first as a Husky.

“Coach always says to step up, to be the man of the match,” Welch said. “It just happened to be me at that time and I just decided to go for it.”

Northeastern is heading to the CAA tournament for the first time under head coach Chris Gbandi. Gbandi is in his third year with the program.

“I thought it was a well-deserved victory. The guys worked hard and to be fair they’ve been working hard all year,” Gbandi said. “They chose a pretty big occasion to show up and get a victory against a pretty tough team.”

The Huskies kept a clean sheet in the win in large part due to five saves from first-year goalkeeper Chandler Cree. It was Cree’s third shutout for the Huskies in seven starts.

“I think that as a team, we stayed together really strong defensively, made sure to keep the ball wide,” Cree said. “A couple chances they got on corners, but we made sure to keep our mans marked and made sure to keep the ball out of the goal.”

No. 6 seed Northeastern face No. 3 seed Hofstra (8-6-4, 5-2-1) on the road on Saturday in the tournament’s first round. In their only meeting this year, the Huskies won commandingly, 3-0 at home on Oct. 10.

“I think we’ll think about [the tournament] probably tomorrow, to be honest with you. Right now it’s just trying to enjoy the moment,” Gbandi said. “I think after Wednesday we’ll get back to basics.”

Despite being the lowest seed in the tournament, the Huskies are not afraid of their opposition.

“Every team we’ve played is very good. They have different styles of play and we’ve been really good at coping with them,” Welch said. “With the results, we’ve been losing by one, losing by one. We know we’re not a bad team. We know we’re right there with them, if not better.”

The Huskies will look to claim their first CAA championship since 2012 and their second ever.

“We’ve just got to do our thing and if we play like we did tonight then we can do it,” Cree said of the Huskies’ chances in the tournament.

Earlier in the week on Saturday, the Huskies fell to the Delaware Blue Hens (5-10-1, 4-3-1) 2-1 on the road. A second-half goal from fourth-year defender Moustapha Samb served only as consolation for the Huskies, who were unable to come back after going down by two goals inside of 12 minutes.

Samb’s goal came in the 79th minute, as a cross after a corner was not cleared by the Delaware defense. Samb reacted first to the loose ball in the box, using his heel to put the ball past the goalkeeper from close range.

The goal was Samb’s third of the season and first from open play after two penalty goals during the year. It was his fourth career Husky goal.

The Blue Hens’ first goal came in the fourth minute, when sophomore midfielder Ryan Mertz headed on a long cross into the path of senior defender Soren Frost. Frost flicked the ball on with his foot and, despite a touch from second-year goalkeeper Adam Gostomelsky, the ball found its way into the net.

Only a few minutes later, Delaware went up 2-0 when senior defender John Schroeder sent a cross from the right side to the back post, where freshman defender Timo Hummrich met the ball with a diving header. Hummrich’s header went back across the keeper and in at the right post.

The Huskies finish the regular season with a 6-8-1 total record and a 3-4-1 record in conference. The team finished with a record of 1-6-1 on the road, but the Huskies played well at home, earning a record of 5-2-0 at Parsons Field.