WILKES-BARRE - Lycoming was in the midst of a hard-fought Division III NCAA first round men's soccer playoff game against Freedom Conference champion King's. Each was coming off its first conference championship and each was in its first NCAA playoff game. But only one team could achieve another first. The program's first NCAA playoffs win.
That went to Lycoming, as reserve freshman forward Alfonce Mutuku scored the game's only goal at 17:50 in a 1-0 win over King's Thursday night at McCarthy Stadium at King's College. Lycoming moves onto the second round of the playoffs where it will play at unbeaten Rutgers-Camden (19-0-2), on Sunday at 1.
"Well it was a good goal," said Mutuku, who entered the game for an injured Nate Smith at 4:45. "A counter attack, I just followed what coach was telling me to do which was run, work hard, pressure, get the ball into the corner and go one-on-one with the defenders and luckily enough I just got in behind and I finished my chance."
Lycoming's Ethan Wilston kicks the ball as Andrew Tuminello of King's defends Thursday at King's College. (Kevin High/For The Sun-Gazette)
Mutuku raced down the sideline and beat the last defender to nail a 25-yard rocket into the upper right hand corner. It was Mutuku's 8th goal of the year, which leads the Warriors.
The defense again was the story of the Warriors as it held the Monarch's offense to just two shots on goal. It was the fourth straight game that Lycoming held its opponent without a goal.
"Basically that's our goal every time," senior center back Connor McNiff said of the shutout. "We know that every now and then they're gonna have some chances, we just gotta eliminate the chances they get. And any chance they get we know Connor (Keenan) is gonna stop them. So we have him back there which is great."
A week after winning conference player of the week and winning MAC tournament MVP, Keenan was again great in goal as he shut out the Monarch's for his 9th shutout of the year and 4th in a row. His scoreless minute streak is up to 538 minutes.
"Great chance to get a shutout today," Keenan said. "I owe it to the guys in front of me, they defend their butts off. My front four is amazing and the guys up top held the ball for us today, just did a wonderful job."
Along with McNiff and Keenan playing well in the back, freshman standout Bill Kerr was all over, junior Trevor Bishop played great on the wing, as did senior Justin Walker.
Midfielders Ethan Wilson, Kevin Seymour and Dom Haynes played well in the midfield, winning 50/50 balls.
The Monarch's had their own scoreless streak going, but just couldn't sustain it. The Monarch's scoreless streak was snapped at 238 minutes.
Goalie Mark Labbadia played well, but just couldn't get help from his offense which amounted just two shots on goal.
King's struggled on offense due to the absence of leading offensive player Niall Croke, who had five goals and five assists.
Lycoming- Alfonce Mutuku, 17:50.
Shots on goal: L-2; K-2. Corner kicks: L-2; K-4. Saves: L-2; K-2. Goalies: Lycoming (Connor Keenan). King's (Mark Labbadia).
Records: Lycoming (11-7-4); King's (11-5-5) Next game: Lycoming at Rutgers-Camden (Sunday at 1)