November 10, 2005

Pioneers Set for First Playoff Run

Nov. 10, 2005

Fairfield, CT - After completing the second biggest single season turnaround in Northeast Conference history, the Sacred Heart Pioneers men's soccer team is ready to try to continue their renaissance season this weekend when the compete for the NEC men's soccer championship.

With new head coach Joe Barroso and an almost entirely new group of players, the Pioneers posted an overall record of 7-6-4 and a 4-2-3 mark in conference play. The Pioneers resurgence, from garnering just one point in conference play in 2004 to 15 points this season, can be attributed to several different factors.

The Pioneers were led by two freshmen, one on each end of the field. On the offensive side, forward Jason Tessitore (Ansonia, CT) scored a team high eight goals, the most among freshmen in the NEC and the third most of anyone in the conference. Tessitore scored the game winning goal in three of the Pioneers seven victories.

On the other end of the field, freshman goaltender Matthew Jones (Stoke-on-Trent, England) posted a shutout in each of the Pioneers seven wins. In posting a 0.97 goals against average, Jones allowed just 17 goals in starting every one of the Pioneers games. He posted four straight shutouts and allowed just four goals during an eight game Pioneer unbeaten streak which propelled the Pioneers to a playoff spot. Jones' seven shutouts were second most among NEC goaltenders

In addition to their two freshmen phenoms, the Pioneers also had veteran leadership on the field. Seniors Gustavo Netto (Sao Paulo, Brazil) and Neal Shapiro (Vernon, NJ) anchored the attack. Shapiro tallied three goals on the season, including two in a win over Hartford in the Pioneers home opener. Netto scored two goals on the season.

In the backfield, Glenn Wilken (Ridgefield, CT) anchored a defense corps that was as solid as Jones was in net. Wilken led a trio of freshmen, Anthony Anzevui (Newcastle, England), David Backman (Gothenburg, Sweden) and Jonatan Alback (Gothenburg, Sweden), in keeping the ball away from the net.

The Pioneers sent everyone a wake-up call with a 1-0 win over Bowling Green in their season opener. After finishing their non-conference schedule at 3-4, the Pioneers lost their NEC opener to Robert Morris. That was the last game the Pioneers would lose for nearly a month. After four straight ties, the Pioneers ran off four straight wins to clinch their first ever playoff spot.

The Pioneers, seeded fourth, will face top seed and host Monmouth in the NEC semifinals Friday at 11:00 am. Second seed Central Connecticut and third seed Robert Morris will play the other semifinal at 1:30 pm. The winners meet for the NEC championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament Sunday at 12:00 pm.