FAIRFIELD, Conn. - The Sacred Heart University men's soccer team experienced its most successful season at the Division I level in 2010 with a program record 11 wins. The Pioneers finished the regular season 11-5-2 overall and 6-2-2 in the Northeast Conference, good enough for second place.
With the second place finish, SHU earned the second seed in the NEC Tournament. This is just the third time the Pioneers have reached the postseason at the D-I level and the first time since 2007. Monmouth ran through the NEC undefeated and hosts this weekend's tournament, which takes place on Friday and Sunday. The two-seeded Sacred Heart Pioneers are on the pitch at 1:30 pm Friday against number three Saint Francis (PA). The host and top-seeded Hawks take on number four Fairleigh Dickinson at 11:00. Friday morning.
About the Pioneers... 2010 has marked the most successful season in the program's Division I history. Having posted an 11-5-2 overall record, Sacred Heart surpassed 10 wins for the first time since making the jump to D-I in 1999 and the first time overall since 1992. The Pioneers were winless in their previous two appearances in the NEC playoffs with losses coming in the semi-finals in 2005 and 2007. SHU earned the number two seed after registering a conference record of 6-2-2. Sophomore Marcello Castro made the transition from central midfielder to central defender this season. Despite the change, Castro has remained a dangerous member of the Pioneer offense as he leads the team in scoring with 12 points on five goals and two assists. Fellow sophomore Brian Francolini is second on the team in scoring with three goals and three assists. Sacred Heart opened the season with a four game winning streak and tied #10 Monmouth (10/17) in their only game of the season against a ranked opponent.
Between the Pipes... Junior goalkeeper Alex Fait started each of the first 15 games this season and finished third in the NEC with a 1.02 goals against average and earned five shutouts. Senior Tyler Locatell made his collegiate debut vs. Army (10/27) and has since earned two shutouts in his first two career starts. He owns a 0.73 GAA and .867 save percentage.
Workin' OT... The Pioneers took part in seven overtime games throughout the season, four of which came against NEC opponents. In the extra frame, SHU put up a record of 3-2-2. The Pioneers were also an impressive 9-2 in games decided by one goal.
In the Polls... SHU jumped two spots, to third, in this week's NSCAA/hendrickcars.com North Atlantic Region Rankings. In the NSCAA National Rankings, the Pioneers received votes for the first time in program history. SHU twice peaked at number two in the North Atlantic.
Home Cookin'... Sacred Heart put together a 7-2 record playing on its home turf, Campus Field. The Pioneers fell only once at home, in conference action, to Saint Francis (PA) in overtime 2-1. The season began with three straight home games, all non-conference victories, coming against Holy Cross, Columbia, and Siena.
Scouting the Red Flash... Saint Francis (PA) fell to Robert Morris, 2-0, in its regular season finale, but has already clinched a spot in the NEC Tournament with a 1-0 double overtime win over Mount St. Mary's (11/1). The Red Flash are 10-6-1 coming into the tournament and compiled a record of 6-3-1 in the NEC. Senior Patrick Fleming totaled 24 points, third in the NEC, on eight goals and eight assists. Junior Kingsley McLeod added five goals and two assists, while senior Owen Gombami was credited with a team-high five assists to go with three scores of his own. In goal, sophomore Daniel Valcicak supplied 75 saves and a 1.32 GAA.
Last Time vs. SFPA... The Red Flash posted a come-from-behind 2-1 overtime victory against the Pioneers on October 15. The result was the first home loss of the season for SHU. All three goals of the contest were the end result of direct free kicks. Marcello Castro struck first for the Pioneers, but it was a pair of set pieces taken by SFPA's Fleming that turned the game in favor of the visiting Red Flash.