Men’s Soccer Claims 2014 MIAC Playoff Title With 2-0 Victory Over Saint John’s

Posted on November 8th, 2014 by

The Gustavus men's soccer team claimed the 2014 MIAC Playoff Championship with a 2-0 victory over Saint John's on Saturday at the Gustie Soccer Field.

St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus Adolphus men’s soccer team defeated Saint John’s University 2-0 in the MIAC Playoff Championship on Saturday afternoon at the Gustie Soccer Field. Thanks to goals by Eric Schnieder (Sr., St. Anthony, Minn.) in the 29th minute and Patrick Roth (So., Stillwater, Minn.) in the 80th minute, Gustavus was able to earn the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s automatic bid into the 2014 NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament.

“An excellent battling performance from everyone today,” said Head Coach Mike Middleton. “Congratulations to all the lads in the program; every single one of them deserves the 2014 date on the banner.  This has been a great year with fantastic players – a really fun group.  They are smart in the classroom, proved to be successful on the sports field, and carry themselves with a great deal of class. Not an arrogant bone in their bodies, all working their hardest and all being supportive of each other.  As a coach, you can’t ask for more.”

Since the MIAC instituted the post-season playoff system in 2003, Gustavus had previously made it as far as the championship five times. In each of those five occasions, the Gusties walked off the field with a title plaque in their hands. In 2014, that trend continued. With today’s victory, Gustavus has collected a league-best six playoff titles with this year’s championship being this first since 2012.

“It was a tough old game, so great credit to Saint John’s,” Middleton said.  “We knew they were going to fight all day and they did. They’ve had an excellent end of the year and have a number of talented players.  Congratulations to them for an excellent season, and fingers crossed that they can get an at-large bid.”

At 15-4-1 overall, Gustavus will head into the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season and 11th time in program history. Saint John’s sees its seven-match winning-streak come to an end and is now 13-7-0.

Senior Eric Schneider scored the eventual game-winner when he struck the back of the net at the 28:09 mark. Photo courtesy of Laura Westphal - Sport PiX.

Senior Eric Schneider scored the eventual game-winner when he struck the back of the net at the 28:09 mark. Photo courtesy of Laura Westphal – Sport PiX.

With more than half of the opening 45 minutes in the books, Gustavus was able to break through and snap the scoreless tie in the 29th minute. With the ball played deep near the goal line of the Saint John’s end, Eli Bjek (Jr., Stillwater, Minn.) played a high-arching cross into the box. With the ball sailing over the mouth of the net, Saint John’s goalkeeper Kevin Lebahn keyed on striker Zach Brown (Sr., Eau Claire, Wis.) who looked to be in position for a header. Lebahn and Brown collided and the ball landed safely on the grass where Eric Schneider was positioned to put away the eventual game-winner with his left foot.

“An excellent opening goal from Eric Schneider,” said Middleton about Schneider’s third goal of the season and first game-winner.  “He took his chance really well after a good spell of pressure.  It was not an easy opportunity with the ball bouncing around in the penalty box, but he was like a blood hound sniffing out of the net, burying it past the ‘keeper.”

Although Gustavus tallied eight shots compared to Saint John’s seven in the second half, the Johnnies’ created numerous deep inside Gustavus’s end. Fortunately for the Gusties, their back line and goalkeeper Brett Ylonen (Sr., Lake Elmo, Minn.) were up to the challenge.

“All the lads played well with the defense holding them to very few significant chances,” Middleton stated. “Elliot Emerson, Patrick Leach, Sam Leske and Jason Schwab, and ‘keeper Brett Ylonen, were heroic and displayed great strength of character. David Lilly was top of his class on the field, dominating in front of the defense, and Charlie Adams was kicked from pillar to post but still kept coming back for more – he is as brave as a lion.”

One of the aforementioned Saint John’s flurries in front of the net actually led to Gustavus’s second goal. Following several blocked shots by the Gustavus defense, David Lilly (Sr., Maple Grove, Minn.) found the ball on his foot and immediately led a charge straight up the center of the field. Being flanked by two of his own attackers on the rush, Lilly waited for the Saint John’s defender to commit before playing a through-ball to Patrick Roth who was moving up the left wing unaccounted for. Roth took a pair of strides before putting the ball into the back of the net, giving Gustavus a two-goal lead at the 79:46 mark.

Brett Ylonen, David Lilly, and Elliot Emerson hoist the 2014 MIAC Playoff Championship plaque. Photo courtesy of Laura Westphal – Sport PiX.

Brett Ylonen, David Lilly, and Elliot Emerson hoist the 2014 MIAC Playoff Championship plaque. Photo courtesy of Laura Westphal – Sport PiX.

“The second goal from Patrick Roth really sealed the game, allowing us to somewhat enjoy the last few minutes,” said Middleton about Roth’s goal.  “It would have been a tough ask for any team to comeback from that.  Patrick is lethal finisher and quick on the draw – he’ll get you just as you least expect it.”

The Roth goal proved to be the final momentum shift.  Saint John’s recorded just one more shot over the course of the remaining minutes.

The final shot tally saw each team with 11 while Gustavus had the corner kick advantage 4-0.

Middleton was especially pleased with the work of his forwards Zach Brown, Konnor Tranoris, and Patrick Roth. “You could see that was where we could win the game,” added Middleton. “Those three are so difficult to handle with their movement and work-rate. Zach Brown and Konnor are on the form of their lives and a nice cameo up front from Nick Keiser as well.  Nick is so quick, not allowing their defense to breathe and the ball seems to stick to him like velcro  – he always comes away from a challenge in possession.”

Veteran goalkeeper Brett Ylonen picked up this three straight shutout victory with today’s performance. Ylonen has allowed only one goal in his last 441:36 minutes between the posts. He enters the NCAA Tournament with an overall record of 6-1-1 with a goals against average of 0.51 and a save percentage of .833.

With a spot in the NCAA Tournament now in hand, the Gustavus men’s soccer team will now await the release of the bracket, which will be announced during the Division III Men’s Soccer Selection Show coming up on Monday, November 10 at 12:30 p.m. (CST).

“It was a chilly day, but the soccer certainly warmed the hearts of the fans,” added Middleton about today’s crowd.  “A nice big cheering section and a chance to celebrate once again. A great deal of thanks to the many parents and alums who made it to campus to support this team.”

“Back into the NCAAs for the third straight year,” Middleton concluded. “What you do in life, echoes in eternity – the 2014 team is on the banner!  Congratulations and great credit to our senior class in particular.  It’s nice to celebrate but not for too long.  We need to refocus on what we want to achieve in the NCAA Tournament. Its infinity and beyond once again for the lads!”

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