Associate Sports Editor
The Marauders accomplished something that only two teams have done in the last 50 years; claim back-to-back PSAC champions.
Millersville cemented their spot in the PSAC finals after their 2-1 win over Mercyhurst this past Friday, and they would then face No. 5 Gannon this past Sunday.
Both teams played conservatively as it was a battle for possession. Neither team wanted to play too aggressive, and both sides were trying to feel their opponent out.
The Marauders had an opportunity in the 19th minute through sophomore forward Spencer Shortt who crossed the ball into the box for freshman forward Frank Astarita whose half-volley was pushed away by the Gannon keeper.
The first half would end scoreless, and there would be everything to play for in the second half.
The Marauders had a perfect start to the second half when freshman mid-fielder Bob Hennessey put a shot in past the Gannon keeper a mere 30 seconds into the second half. The goal was assisted by junior forward/mid-fielder Matteo Adiletta who placed the ball into the penalty box where Hennessey could put the goal away just inside the left post.
It was all Marauders in the second half. Another opportunity presented itself in the 52nd minute as senior forward Jacob Gosselin broke through the Gannon defense off of a counterattack and only had the keeper to beat. Gosselin’s shot was deflected, landing at the feet of Shortt who’s attempt was cleared off the line by a fleeing Gannon defense.
Another chance came for Millersville in the 65th minute as the Marauders once again looked to strike off the counterattack. This time, sophomore forward Nathan Erb and Gosselin had a two-on-one against the Gannon keeper. Gosselin laced the shot himself, but the Gannon keeper made a nice kick save to keep his team in it.
Gannon was unable to find the back of the net, even though they out-shot the Marauders throughout the game 9-8. Millersville’s keeper, senior Darian McCauley, was voted MVP of the entire tournament.
McCauley kept Gannon off the board, along with making eight critical saves in the semi-final match against Mercyhurst. While Gannon held the advantage in shots, Millersville had the advantage in corner-kicks 6-4.
Coach Steve Widdowson was proud of his team and how they refused to give up even after a slow start to the season.
“To go back-to-back is unbelievable. People don’t do it. When we walked off the field after the 5-1 battering by Wilmington in the first game of the season I don’t think anyone would have given us a chance at making the final but we were fantastic today. My guys were absolutely superb. This is what we’ve built up to. It’s a marathon not a sprint and we’ve timed it right again.”
Widdowson was also pleased with how his team responded to his message at half-time, “We came out in the second half doing exactly what we said to do at halftime. We got a little too reliant on going big and we needed to put the ball down, find feet, pass and move, and break them down that way. It was exactly what we needed to do and it led to the goal and gave everyone a lift.”
Millersville’s next step will be to take part in the NCAA tournament, where they will face some of the top teams in the nation. However, coach Widdowson is confident in his team going into the tournament.
“I’m looking forward to going up against these teams again because I know we can do well against them. We played four of the top five teams. I’m not sure how far they’ve developed but we’ve certainly developed a long way. I think we have the belief that if we get one of those teams again we can handle them and we can actually beat them. I’m excited to just enjoy the NCAA
tournament and see how far we can go. At the end of the day, we’ve got our insurance card, we’ve got a championship and that can’t be taken away from us. We’re a very dangerous team because we’re relaxed and on our day we can compete with anybody.”
Millersville will head to the campus of Adelphi University as the eighth seed to take on ninth seeded Post University on Thursday Nov. 21st.
Until then, the Marauders are PSAC champions for the second consecutive year, and it will be something that the program will remember for a long, long time.