The farewell tour staged by Towson State soccer finished in grand fashion yesterday.
The Tigers became the first team in the 18-year history of the East Coast Conference to win three straight titles, putting away Rider 2-1 in the championship game at UMBC. Towson State would prefer not to make it four in a row, as the university informed the ECC in September it was seeking greener pastures and did not plan to be a member next season.
Whether coach Frank Olszewski will miss the ECC remains to be seen. He'll probably get teary-eyed, however, pondering life without ome departing seniors.
Towson State (14-4-3) fell behind in the 24th minute on a 25-yard bullet by Mark McQuaite of Rider (10-7-2), but the Tigers veterans kept their cool and completed a landmark year. Tournament MVP Ed McCue got the equalizer with 7:15 left in the half, and his run down the left side precluded the game-winner by Joe Layfield 4:13 into the second half.
"All of our veterans came through this weekend," Olszewski said, "but those two have been incredible down the stretch."
McCue, a 6-foot bruiser from Alexandria, Va., who's rarely run off a ball, ended his career with 38 goals and 17 assists. Layfield, a Calvert Hall product who spent his freshman year at Loyola, needed just three seasons to finesse his way to 29 goals and a school-record 20 assists.
Both were repeat selections on the ECC all-star team -- McCue for the third straight year -- and finished with a flourish. McCue scored at least one goal in the last eight games, and Layfield made it six straight playoff games with a goal.
Layfield, who was the ECC Player of the Year in 1990, had 18 goals this season, bettering a Towson State mark set by Wayne Harman ('56).
"Early in the year, I had the stats, and people started putting their best marking back on me," Layfield said. "It happened again today and Ed goes wild. I know he's pushed me to be a better player."
McCue spent most of his first three seasons at midfield before joining Layfield up top at the end of last season. Others who have started throughout the ECC "three-peat" are Mark Sullivan, a senior from Bowie who's an all-conference defender; Lance Johnson, a junior sweeper from New Jersey; and Ricky Bush, a junior midfielder from Delaware.
K? Despite its pedigree, Towson State wasn't favored. UMBC won
regular-season honors and the right to host the tournament, but the Retrievers (15-5-1) blew a 2-1 overtime lead and lost 3-2 to Rider in the semifinals. Towson State lost to UMBC in the regular season and was tied by Rider and Buffalo.
The Tigers jumped all over Buffalo Saturday, however, as McCue scored twice in the first 8:38 en route to a 5-0 romp. They were outplayed for long stretches yesterday, as Rider had a 16-9 shot advantage and all-star goalie Rich Pellegrini made seven saves, but Towson State successfully capped the winningest season in a program that began in 1921.
"We hadn't beaten any of the other playoff teams this year, so we came here feeling like we had something to prove," McCue said. "The only drawback is that I would have liked to have played UMBC today."
At Curley Field, Loyola (12-8-2) made it three straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference titles with a 2-0 defeat of Fairfield. Tom Donahue, the MAAC Player of the Year and tournament MVP, got his 18th goal, and Mark Hopper assisted Chris Sim.
During the last three seasons, the Greyhounds are 27-0 against MAAC foes, and junior goalie Shawn Boehmcke has a school-record 29 shutouts.