Courtesy of Scarnton Sports Information
ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. - Just when it looked like host, top-seeded, and sixth-ranked Elizabethtown had taken control of the match, the second-seeded and visiting University of Scranton men's soccer team scored back-to-back goals in a 23-second span, then held off the host Blue Jays over the final 15 minutes of play to win their first Landmark Conference Championship in program history in a 3-2 upset victory on Saturday night.
Scranton (now 10-6-2 overall) not only won their first Landmark Conference Championship since joining the league in 2007 in the victory, but won their first Conference crown of any kind since capturing the 1985 MAC overall championship.
The Royals also locked up the Landmark's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament with the victory and move onto the national stage for the first time since 2012.
Things couldn't have gotten off to a worse start for Scranton in the first half, as Elizabethtown opened the scoring in the 15th minute with a goal to open a 1-0 lead.
The Blue Jays also fired eight shots in the first half, but junior goalie Eric Hintz (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor) was able to keep the deficit at a goal for most of the period by making three saves.
In the 40th minute, the momentum changed as the match wound down into halftime, as junior Pat Codispoti (Rockville Centre, N.Y./Chaminade) scored his second goal of the year off a cross from fellow junior Tim DiBisceglie (Mine Hill, N.J./Gill St. Benard's School) to make it a 1-1 game entering intermission.
But, in the second half, Elizabethtown grabbed the lead back, quickly scoring in the 47th minute to go up 2-1 on the Royals. That lead held until the 74th minute, when Scranton took control of the match in a flash.
First at the 74:09 mark, junior James Caulfield (Pennington, N.J./Hopewell Valley) picked the right time to score his first goal of the year, sending in a shot into the net off a cross from fellow junior Henry Bonilla (Fairless Hills, Pa,/The Pennington School) to knot the match back up at 2-2.
Before anyone could even collect themselves from the score, Scranton went right back on the attack.
Mere seconds later, senior Ryan Smith (Maple Glen, Pa./Hatboro-Horsham) send in a pass to sophomore Connor Casey (Hatfield, Pa../LaSalle College H.S.) who fired a shot from 18 yards out past the E-Town goalie and into the net, giving Scranton the one-score edge. For Casey, it was his second goal in as many matches.
From there, the Scranton defense clamped down over the final 15 minutes, as the Blue Jays took just one shot over that time that sailed wide in the 85th minute. With that, the Royals captured the Landmark Title in stunning fashion, giving Elizabethtown their first loss in 11 matches in the process.
Overall, Scranton held a 16-12 edge on shots after outshooting Elizabethtown 10-4 over the final 45 minutes. The Royals also held a 5-2 advantage on corner kicks, while Hintz ended the night making three saves total for Scranton.
Also, for his efforts, Caulfield was named the Landmark Conference's Most Valuable Player of the men's soccer tournament.
The Royals will now await their placement in the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Tournament, which will begin either Thursday or Friday for the team. The brackets will be announced on Monday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. EST