1-0 victory puts UMBC in NCAAs; Cuomo's shootout goal finally beats Lafayette


EASTON, Pa. -- Ryan Cuomo didn't care what it looked like. His shot to the left side of the goal hit Lafayette goalie Craig Schroeder dead-on, but Schroeder's hands proved no match for Cuomo's effort.

"To tell you the truth, I was fortunate," said Cuomo, a UMBC junior midfielder. "Someone up above was looking out for me. All that really mattered was it went in."

"It" was undefeated UMBC's seventh penalty kick in yesterday's NCAA play-in men's soccer game at Lafayette. It came after Lafayette held UMBC scoreless for not just the first time in regulation all season, but through four 15-minute, sudden-death overtime periods.

And by the time the sun came out on what started as a cool, gray day at Lafayette, a crowd of 1,021 saw the Leopards' hopes for a second straight NCAA playoff berth disappear.

In a game that featured 150 minutes of scoreless action, it seemed appropriate that the penalty-kicks portion went beyond the minimum five players to sudden death.

UMBC won, 1-0, with a 6-5 edge in penalty kicks, as all three failed kicks missed the net. The only time either UMBC freshman goalie Brian Rowland or Lafayette goalie Schroeder even got a touch of the ball in the penalty-kicks session came on Cuomo's blast.

Lafayette, the Patriot League champion after two double-overtime wins in its league tournament, had one last chance to keep the penalty kicks going, but Jorge Izquierdo's kick sailed wide left.

UMBC, which raised its record to 20-0-1 and celebrated wildly after its win, awaits today's announcement of the seedings for the 32-team NCAA tournament. The Retrievers have never played an NCAA playoff game since going to Division I in 1986. The last time they made the NCAA tournament was as a Division II team in 1978.

"All along, I thought we were going to play Maryland," said UMBC coach Pete Caringi. "Our last home game drew 1,600 people, and we've gotten a lot of media exposure. It would be a natural draw for the NCAA, but we're ready to play anybody."

The Northeast Conference-champion Retrievers controlled the game after the first 15 minutes against a team that thrived on defense and counterattacks.

"That's the way we've played for two years," said second-year Lafayette coach Tim Lenahan. "We won two league titles playing this way. Both teams had an equal number of good chances. Who has more possession doesn't matter."

Lenahan was right about possession in soccer. And sometimes a counterattacking strategy makes perfect sense -- catching an opposing defense short. But UMBC clearly had more of the better chances yesterday.

Officially, the shots were listed as 24-18 in favor of the Retrievers, who also held a 15-4 edge in corners, a clear indication of offensive domination.

Lafayette concentrated on UMBC forwards Ty Engram and Giuliano Celenza, marking them man-on-man, as well as having a second fullback coming back to eliminate passing opportunities.

(UMBC wins on penalty kicks, 6-5.)

Saves: UMBC--Rowland 7; L--Schroeder 17.

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