Clock Strikes Midnight on Jaspers Cinderella Run
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - A season that began with 12 straight losses, saw the programs first unbeaten streak in nearly a decade, and witnessed a magical run in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament ended Monday afternoon as the Manhattan Men's Soccer team fell 3-1 to the top-seeded Fairfield Stags in the MAAC Title Game.
It was only the second championship game appearance in program history, and the first since losing 4-0 to Loyola back in 1994.
From the beginning, the Stags seemed to dominate time of possession and pace of the contest taking a total of nine shots in the first half while their defense held Manhattan to just three attempts of their own. The intense Fairfield pressure finally broke through in the 28th minute as Jon Clements sent a cross towards the box on the left side that Jack Burridge headed over the defense and off the far post for his first of three goals on the day.
The score would sit at 1-0 going in to the halftime break but not without excitement as Eugene Heerschapp sent a blistering shot just over the crossbar in the final minute of the frame. Both squads seemed to settle the pace of the game in the early moments of the second half before Fairfield again went to work controlling the ball.
In the 67th minute, Clements would again connect with Burridge off a corner kick on the left side of the net. His ball looked to be touched by Reese Akers who was hugging the near post. As it deflected away from the net, Burridge was there to softly poke it through George Ellis' legs to give Fairfield a 2-0 lead.
He would then add on to that advantage with a diving redirect off a shot from Clements from about 30 yards out on the right edge. Clements' header skipped past Ellis and put the contest out of reach in the 72nd minute.
Manhattan continued to scramble for a goal with strong efforts in the midfield by Jake Scavetta, Daniel Festa, and forward Jason Iannone. With 90 seconds remaining, Erik Montinard sent a centering feed in towards the box that Heerschapp hustled to and was able to redirect it before backup goalkeeper Doug Freeman got to the ball.
Fairfield's goalkeeper, and MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, Michael O'Keefe made three saves in over 86 minutes of play while Ellis made a total of three as well.
Three Jaspers were named to the MAAC All-Tournament team for their efforts. Heerschapp scored two goals in the three games including the game-winner in double-overtime in Sunday's semifinal while Ellis posted back-to-back shutouts in the first two matches of the weekend before the finals. Senior Christopher Holihan, who missed the championships match with a broken toe, was also named to the All-Tournament squad.
The Jaspers finish their remarkable season with a 5-15-1 overall record having won five of their final eight games including their first tournament win since 1999. The loss also ends the careers of three seniors in Trevor Chiduku, Holihan and Deia Nassar. Nassar was also inactive for the championship game due to suspension.