WEST WINDSOR, N.J. ---- The Massasoit men's soccer team fell to ASA College, 3-0, in the Northeast District Finals on Sunday afternoon at Mercer County CC. Despite the loss, the Warriors still advance on to the NJCAA Nationals, held in Martinsville, Va., from Nov. 16-21.
Massasoit (13-6) and Northeast District Champion ASA (8-6-3) will participate in the NJCAA Nationals hosted by Patrick Henry CC, with 10 other junior colleges from across the country. Every year the NJCAA rotates the district qualifiers, with the Northeast, Southeast, Great Lakes and Central districts sending two schools each. The North Central, South, West and Plains send only their district champion to the Nationals.
On Sunday, the Warriors made a couple miscues on defense which the Avengers took advantage of. In addition, the Massasoit offense was held in check, being shutout for just the third time all season.
"I think it was not ASA's defense that didn't allow us to create, it was our offense, our forwards weren't creating stuff," head coach Rui Estrela said. "I thought we had them speed wise, if we could have kept the ball wide I don't think they could have kept up with us. I thought we possessed a lot of the game and really we were just the unlucky team."
Deadlocked in a scoreless tie, ASA cracked the 0-0 score when a corner kick cross took a lucky bounce right to the foot of Gabriel Viana, who rocketed home the first goal of the game.
Leading 1-0 at the break, ASA scored again, when it took advantage of a 2-on-1 counter attack breakaway, with Keyano Jones dishing off to Cheick Karenbenga in the 50th minute to take the wind out of the Warriors' sails.
"The goals they scored were breakdowns defensively that have not happened often for us recently," Estrela said. "I thought we played well and proved that we can play with these guys. It's just sometimes you get bad breaks and today was one of those days."
In the 90th minute, Massasoit brought almost everyone into the box to try and score on a corner kick. Unfortunately, ASA cleared the cross away and Saufyane Liboudo took the ball from midway for a breakaway goal to give the Avengers the district championship.
Keeper Edmilson Xavier (Brockton) kept the game close, making seven saves in net for the Warriors, five coming in the second half. Two of the saves came on ASA breakaways.
Despite the loss, Estrela and the Warriors will be heading to the NJCAA Nationals for the first time since 1995.
"We just wanted to get to Nationals," Estrela said. "This would have been great to win and bring a district championship back to Massasoit, but unfortunately we were unable to do that today. Our main goal was to get to the Nationals and prepare for that.
"We were missing some key players today and had to play guys out of position. Those guys stepped up. They handled it very well, but hopefully we can get some guys healthy to add to our team depth. Now we need to prepare for Nationals, get our offense moving the ball quicker and get ready for our trip to Virginia."
The seeding for the NJCAA Nationals will be announced on Monday afternoon.
FIRST TIME TO NATIONALS IN 20 YEARS: The Massasoit men's soccer team will return to the NJCAA Nationals for the first time since 1995. In program history, the Warriors are making their 15th trip to the Nationals, claiming National Championships in 1986 and 1987.
BACK-TO-BACK DISTRICTS RUNNER UP: For the second straight season, Massasoit came up just short in claiming its first-ever Northeast District Championship. The Warriors fell to Monroe College last season in the finals, 2-1, at Warrior Field in Brockton.