WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Senior forward Francois “Paco” Navarro (Paris, France) scored the game-winning goal on Senior Night as the Monmouth University men’s soccer team defeated Niagara, 2-0, Saturday night on The Great Lawn to clinch at least a share of the 2013 MAAC Regular Season Championship and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming MAAC Championships. Senior captain Joseph Schmid (Kingston, Pa./Wyoming Valley West) added an assist as the Hawks moved to 8-5-4 (7-0-2 MAAC). The Purple Eagles fell to 4-11-1 (2-5-1 MAAC) with the loss.
With 23 points, the lone remaining team that could potentially tie the Hawks would be Quinnipiac, currently standing at 17 points with two games to play. A point in Monmouth’s season finale at Canisius next Saturday, Nov. 9, or a Quinnipiac loss or tie at either Siena (Nov. 6) or Rider (Nov. 9) would give the Hawks the outright title. Nonetheless, on the strength of the head-to-head tie-breaker with the Bobcats, having taken a 1-0 win on Oct. 26, the Hawks will take the top seed in the MAAC Championships, to be played Nov. 15-17 at Fairfield University’s Lessing Field. Monmouth Head Coach Robert McCourt’s teams have now won a regular season title in eight of the last nine years and 10 of the last 12 seasons, dating back to his time as an assistant at Virginia Commonwealth.
“I am very proud of this year’s team,” said McCourt. “We had a rough start to the season. We stayed focused and worked extremely hard fine tuning the little details of our game. To win the regular season in our first year in the MAAC is a fantastic accomplishment. It is a tribute to all the hard work the guys put in. Winning the regular season is the true testament of a team’s performance over the course of a season. We have one more regular season game left and then we get prepared for the MAAC tourney.”
Freshman goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky (Lincoln Park, N.J./DePaul Catholic) made two saves en route to the Hawks’ sixth-straight clean sheet, their seventh in the last eight games, all in MAAC play. David Acuna Camacho (Heredia, Costa Rica/Costa Rica Youth National Team) assisted on Navarro’s game-winning goal in the 74th minute, while Schmid’s assist set up Dan Pizzimenti (Manalapan, N.J./Christian Brothers Academy) in the 82nd minute. John Egan (Smithtown, N.Y./Hauppauge) also earned an assist on the Pizzimenti goal.
For the game, Monmouth outshot Niagara, 21-4, and took a 15-3 edge in corner kicks. Niagara’s Brenden Ottman took the loss, finishing with five saves.
After a first half in which the Hawks held a modest advantage in shots (6-3), Monmouth peppered Ottman with 15 shots to the Purple Eagles’ one in the second half. The Hawks broke through in the 74th minute when Camacho won a 50/50 ball in the midfield, dribbled all the way to the right of the 18-yard box and sent a cross to Navarro outside the far post. Navarro headed it down across the goal mouth, inside the right post for the game-winner.
In the 82nd minute, just over a minute after subbing into the game for the first time, Pizzimenti was on the receiving end of some tremendous passing, finishing low inside the right post for his first-career goal. Egan played Schmid down the right sideline before the senior delivered a perfect cross into the box at Pizzimenti’s feet. The sophomore did the rest.
The Hawks conclude MAAC regular-season action Saturday, when they travel to Canisius. Kickoff from Demske Sports Complex in Buffalo, N.Y., is scheduled for 7 p.m.