Towson rolls past Fairfield

For first time in school history, Tigers advance to College Cup's round of 16

Towson 2 Fairfield 0

College soccer

November 16, 2006|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun reporter

The Towson men's soccer team reached uncharted territory yesterday, gaining the round of 16 in the NCAA College Cup with a dominating 2-0 victory over Fairfield at the Towson Center Field.

It was the 11th shutout for the 20th-ranked Tigers, who advance to meet third-ranked Wake Forest, a 5-1 winner over Hofstra.

Towson goalkeeper Billy Chiles sealed the win when he thwarted the last serious threat by the Stags, repulsing a penalty kick by Alex Cunliffe. Chiles made another save on the same sequence, and then watched a third attempt sail over the goal.

It was the only time all afternoon that the Tigers' keeper was severely challenged, because his defensive teammates were highly effective. Fairfield did not manage a shot in a first half played almost exclusively in Towson's offensive end - the Tigers had a 6-0 edge in corner kicks - and fired from long distance through most of the second half.

"Sometimes, you get lucky, I guess," said Chiles, who entered the tournament with a .931 save percentage, second in the nation. "But the more you face opponents, the more you watch body language. The way he [Cunliffe] planted, I moved closer to that side."

Towson (15-1-3) had not played in 12 days - since losing in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament to George Mason on penalty kicks - so rustiness could have been a problem.

"I was kind of twirling about that," coach Frank Olszewski said. "You have to keep things a little intense [in practice], but they handled it well and the home field didn't hurt."

A crowd approaching 1,000 filled the stands and lined the bank overlooking the pitch, and the Tigers responded by taking command immediately. Fairfield (15-6-1) had advanced by beating Connecticut last Saturday.

The Tigers pressed the issue, but didn't score until freshman Kevin Ruck took a cross from Sean Cunningham and headed the ball in at 39:08.

"I was in the right place at the right time," Ruck said.

Nino Mangione (Calvert Hall) made it 2-0 at the 53-minute mark after Pat Healey (Calvert Hall) fired a hard shot that Stags goalie Jon Paul Francini turned aside. Mangione was there for the rebound.

"Somebody from the other team thought we'd lay back early," Mangione said. "But we definitely wanted to come out with a lot of fire."

Towson failed to pass through the round of 32 five years ago in its only other Division I appearance. It had beaten James Madison, 4-1, in its opener, but fell to North Carolina - eventually the national champion - 3-0.

It was the 240th career victory for Olszewski, whose 15th-seeded Tigers will travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., to play second-seeded Wake Forest on Sunday.

"We have a group that has done well on the road because it has good leadership," Olszewski said.

Towson has not lost since a 3-2 overtime defeat at Hartwick on Sept. 10, and has a 6-1-0 record in away games. kent.baker@baltsun.com

Fairfield 0 0 - 0

Towson 1 1 - 2

Goals: T-Ruck, Mangione. Assists: T-Cunningham, Healey, Thompson. Saves: T-Chiles 3; F-Francini 7. A-941.

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