[NCAA DIVISION I MEN]Monmouth produced the first upset of the NCAA Division I Men's Tournament when it beat Big East powerhouse Connecticut at home in a shootout on Thursday. The Hawks and Huskies played 110 minutes of scoreless soccer before Monmouth prevailed 4-3 in a shootout. Keeper Bryan Meredith was the hero with a save in the fifth round on Mike Pezza's shot.
Monmouth, which moves to 18-1-2 overall this season, claimed the first NCAA Tournament win in program history and now advance to play seeded Harvard on Sunday at 1:00 pm in Cambridge, Mass.
"This is a tremendous achievement for our program," said MU head coach Robert McCourt. "The guys worked very hard for this victory today and we look forward to the next NCAA match with Harvard. We weathered the storm early and had some good moments in the second half and overtime. The team showed a lot of character today."
The shootout was tied at 3-3 after five kicks when Monmouth keeper Bryan Meredith stopped Connecticut's Mike Pezza's attempt to the left upper 90. MU sophomore Cesar Blacido stepped to the ball and laced a shot to the left of UConn keeper Josh Ford and into the back of the net for the shootout's deciding score.
After neither team could produce a goal in the 90-minute regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods, the contest entered the shootout. UConn's Carlos Alvarez was the first shootout participant, and his shot sailed high over the goal. MU's RJ Allen was the first Hawk to shoot and his shot also went wide. In the second round, UConn's Toni Stahl scored, and Monmouth transfer Dan Bostock (irginia Intermont) followed suit, tying the shootout up at 1-1.
UConn's Cruz Hernandez scored next as Hermann Award Watch List member Ryan Kinne evened up the shootout for Monmouth at 2-2. Meredith saved Robert Brickley's shot in the fourth round, and MU freshmen Cody Calafiore's attempt beat Ford, but it rang off both posts and the shootout remained tied.
Alan Ponce scored for the Huskies, putting them up 3-2, before Monmouth freshman Ryan Clark tallied the shootout's equalizer, setting up Meredith's and Blacido's late heroics.
The Huskies outshot the Hawks in regulation 15-4 and held a 5-3 advantage on corner kicks. Meredith made four saves in regulation and overtime, none bigger than a diving save on Alvarez in the second overtime. The junior dove to his left and stopped the ball after it had passed him, but before it crossed the goal line, to preserve the scoreless result and force the shootout.