The University of Maryland Baltimore County stunned the visiting State University of New York-Buffalo with two goals within 47 seconds midway through the second half to prevail, 3-1, and claim the East Coast Conference regular-season soccer championship and the home field for this weekend's tournament.
Saturday's pairings will have top-seeded UMBC (15-4-1, 5-0-1) against Rider (9-5-2, 2-2-2) -- which beat Hofstra, 4-2, yesterday -- and Towson State (12-4-3, 3-1-2) against Buffalo (10-6-2, 3-2-1).
Senior Darius Taylor, noted for his defensive work on the UMBC back line, broke a 1-1 tie at 64:45 on a goal off a scramble 8 yards in front of the Buffalo goal. Moments later, Jason Dieter sent a corner kick to the goal mouth and 5-foot-8 freshman Rob Hoch headed it past goalkeeper Eric Lurie.
The Bulls got the only goal of the first half when their scoring leader Brian Hancher (eight goals, three assists) kicked one in from 20 yards away. Junior Rob Karas tied it with his second penalty kick of the season after Dieter had been taken down from behind inside the 18-yard stripe.
"There are not too many weaknesses on that team, and the defense is really solid," Buffalo coach John Astudillo said of the winners. "The two big guys [6-5 Taylor and 6-4 Robby Wagner] ate up everything at one end, and we gave away too many corners and head balls at the other."
The start by Robert Diver, who had been out with an injury and was doubtful until the last minute, was a big plus for UMBC. "He did a great job. Just by being in there, he frees Jason [Dieter] to do other things, and the two of them in the middle help control the ball," coach Pete Caringi said.
Taylor and Wagner felt the same way about their other back, senior Pete Eibner. "He's the runner and marks the other team's best or fastest player. That lets Robbie and me dictate the pace," said Taylor.
Buffalo 1 0 -- 1
UMBC....0 3 -- 3
Goals: UB--Hancher; UMBC--Karas, Taylor, Dieter. Assists: UMBC--Dieter. Saves: UB--Lurie 8; UMBC--Mamula 5.