Towson wins America East, earns first NCAA berth

DeMares' goal gets Tigers past Northeastern, 1-0

Colleges

November 18, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Earlier this month, a couple of days before Towson University began its run in the America East soccer playoffs, standout forward Alfonso DeMares talked about the added urgency that comes with being a senior.

"Everything is more serious because you know every game could be your last, so you don't want it to end that quick. You want to extend it as much as you can," said DeMares, the program's all-time leading scorer.

Two weeks and three wins later - yesterday's hard-fought 1-0 victory over visiting Northeastern providing the final touch on their first America East championship - the Tigers (15-4-1) are indeed still playing, ecstatic to be moving on to their first NCAA Division I playoff appearance.

Not surprising, it was DeMares who supplied the game's only goal - coming from a near impossible angle along the right endline - in the 56th minute, leaving the rest for senior goalkeeper Chris Hurley and a tight-marking defense led by senior sweeper Steve Hoeck.

When Hurley gobbled up the one final ball sent in by the Huskies, the final seconds ticking off with the ball securely in his hands, coach Frank Olszewski led the chant: "N-C-A-A!"

The Tigers will find out the who, when and where details tomorrow afternoon when the NCAA invitations are sent out, but yesterday was a time to celebrate.

"These guys have said since we got to the playoffs their goal was one more game, one more game. ... And when you hae a group of seniors that motivated, it's a joy to watch," said Olszewski. "After the game, I said to the guys `You got another game,' and they were like `We want to have more than that.'"

Everything fell into place.

Seeded third in the tournament, the Tigers knocked off New Hampshire in the opening round before coming away with a 2-1 semifinal win at No. 2 seed Hartford. Then came news that fourth-seeded Northeastern pulled off the upset over the top seed, Boston University, to give the Tigers the championship game at home for the first time after three unsuccessful tries on the road over the previous six years.

"We're coming back down from Hartford and heard that Northeastern had won. We were so excited because we were sick and tired of traveling. So hosting the game we got the support from the crowd we never had before and it was amazing," said DeMares.

Not nearly as amazing as DeMares' improbable finish, his 15th of the season and 45th goal of his career.

After chasing down a through ball sent in from junior Randy Tolson (three goals, one assist in the tournament) at the end line on the right side, DeMares quickly cut back to gain space on the defender and then used the outside of his right foot to beat unsuspecting Northeast goalie Allan Lewis high on the near side.

"The goalie was cheating - he thought I was going to cross the ball," said DeMares. "I figured I might as well give it a shot and tried to bend it in the near post. I got lucky I guess."

The Huskies (13-8) came back with some of their best chances shortly after, having a goal disallowed on an offside call and Hurley right where he needed to be on everything else. He turned back six shots on the afternoon and yielded just one goal in the Tigers' three wins to be named the tournament's most outstanding player.

"Amazing, amazing," said Hurley. "I can't ask for anything more in my senior year." Goals: T-DeMares. Assists: T-Tolson. Saves: NE-Lewis 4; T-Hurley 6. Half: 0-0.

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