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Men’s Soccer Keep Their Dancing Shoes On

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On August 25, the University at Albany men’s soccer team stood on the green turf at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium in shock and disbelief.

After taking a 2-0 lead five minutes into the second half, the Great Danes allowed three unanswered goals to drop their opening match of the 2017 season to Marist 3-2.

Head coach Trevor Gorman knew what his team was capable of. He had seen it the entire first half. But with eight seniors graduated from 2016’s conference championship season and 11 newcomers for 2017, he knew it was going to take time.

On the road in College Park, MD, coach Gorman’s team played exactly to their full potential. The time was now.

In front of a raucous crowd of red and yellow Terps fans, the two-time defending America East champion UAlbany men’s soccer team knocked off the Maryland Terrapins 5-4 on penalty kicks to advance to the second round of the 2017 NCAA tournament.

After 110 minutes of a scoreless soccer, the match could only be decided with a PK shootout.

In the eighth round of the penalty shootout, sophomore midfielder Brynjar Steinporsson converted the game winning goal to seal the win for the Great Danes.

“We’re delighted to be advancing to play another game,” head coach Trevor Gorman said. We knew today was going to be a tremendous challenge playing a program like Maryland.

Both teams had their opportunities with Maryland’s junior midfielder Gordon Wild nearly scoring on a shot just wide right of the net 35 seconds in the match and UAlbany coming close on shots throughout.

The Terps out shot the Great Danes 6-2 in the first half and 14-4 for the game.

Junior goalkeeper Danny Vitiello was brilliant tying a season high with eight saves in the match including a diving save with 12 minutes left in the first half off the foot of Maryland’s Jake Rozhanksy from 20 yards out to preserve the 0-0 tie.

After a successful chip shot penalty goal by Andreas Assiotis in the penalty shootout with the season on the line over the head of goalkeeper Dayne St Clair, Vitiello saved a shot by freshman forward Eric Matzelevich to the right side of the net that would’ve evened the score.

In the following round, junior forward Sebastien Elney kicked a shot high over the top of the net. With an opportunity to end the match and secure the Great Danes second straight Sweet 16 appearance, Steinporsson delivered on a perfect placed shot in the top left corner of the net to seal the win.

It was the third overtime match UAlbany has played in their last five and their second to go to penalty kicks in their last four.

The Great Danes had been here before. UAlbany advanced past UMBC in the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament after winning 4-2 on penalty kicks just 12 days earlier.

“I thought they were very good tonight, but I’m proud of my guys.  We executed a lot of things well and ultimately we’re happy to be on the right end of that shootout.”

The Great Danes have spoken all season long about making history in 2017, going one step further than their Sweet 16 appearance one year ago.

For a senior class that includes the all time program leader in Division 1 points and goals scored Afonso Pinheiro as well as veteran defenders Moosah Khanat and Jeff Medina, they’ve made it one step closer to that goal.

The only thing standing in their way: a date with #10 Western Michigan on the road Sunday at 1pm for a berth in the Elite Eight.

With their backs against the wall once again, these Danes will have another chance to reach uncharted territory.

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Rob "Lep" Lepelstat is the sports editor of the Albany Student Press. Along with the ASP, Lep works as Vice President of ATV and sports director for WCDB. During the summer of 2017, he interned at WABC-TV in New York City.

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