ESU Men’s Soccer Advances to PSAC Title Game after Topping West Chester 5-4 on PKs
WEST CHESTER, Pa. – In the most important moment thus far of the 2017 season, East Stroudsburg University head coach Rob Berkowitz turned to a goalkeeper who had played only 33:37 minutes on the year. Junior Steven Robak rewarded that faith in a big way.
ESU and West Chester were forced into penalty kicks after a 0-0 deadlock through 110 minutes of Friday afternoon’s PSAC semifinal. Robak did not play in regulation, but his diving stops on the final two Golden Ram attempts gave the Warriors a 5-4 advantage in the tiebreaker and sent them into Sunday’s championship game.
Fourth-seeded ESU will play either No. 2 Gannon or No. 3 Millersville at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Warriors return to the title game for the first time since 2010, and they will be looking for the program’s 20th PSAC championship.
Top-seeded West Chester had a 4-3 advantage through the first four rounds of penalty kicks. Sophomore back Mateo Laredo-Fernandez converted to level the score at 4-4, and Robak made his first diving save to extend PK’s to a sixth round. In that frame, junior forward Eddy Enowbi scored for the Warriors and Robak made an almost identical diving effort to extend ESU’s postseason run.
Junior midfielder Brandon Levano, junior midfielder Jo Panuccio and senior midfielder Christian Bukowski also converted from the spot for ESU (13-3-2). The Golden Rams (13-3-2) fall short of their first-ever PSAC title in men’s soccer after finishing the regular season with a perfect 11-0 record in conference play.
Junior Will Boerema played all 110 minutes in goal prior to the shootout, and he made three saves to secure his sixth clean sheet in ESU’s last seven games, and his seventh shutout overall on the year. The Warriors have allowed only one goal in the last 7:09.39 of game action dating back to the first half of their Oct. 10 contest against Bridgeport.
Little separated the two teams prior to PK’s, as West Chester held a slim 12-11 edge in shots while ESU earned three of the game’s five corner kicks.
All three of Boerema’s saves came in the opening 45 minutes, but perhaps the best scoring chance of the first half came off the foot of ESU graduate student midfielder Nico Gericke. Off a free kick with under three minutes left on the clock, he sent a curling effort which bounced off the back post of the goal.
Other chances for the Warriors after the intermission included a long-range effort by Bukowski in the 66th minute which was sent wide and a low shot through several players by Panuccio in the 78th minute which was stopped by West Chester goalie Matt Palmer.
Each team managed two shots during the 20 minutes of overtime, but no attempts made it to either Boerema or Palmer in goal.
Today’s result, officially a draw in the standings, helps ESU avenge a 2-0 defeat to the Golden Rams during the regular season on Sept. 12. The Warriors now have an opportunity to avenge another loss, as their two other conference setbacks came to Millersville (3-2, 2OT) on Sept. 24 and Gannon (1-0) on Oct. 8.
ESU’s 19 conference titles are second only to Lock Haven (20) among PSAC schools. The Warriors are looking for their first championship since a 1-0 (2OT) win over Lock Haven back in 2007.