The Berkeley College New York men's soccer team has reached the top of the USCAA Division II men's soccer mountain, as earlier this afternoon, the No. 1 seeded Knights defeated the No. 2 seeded Wildcats of Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte in the National title game by a score of 3-0. The match took place at the Princess Anne Sports Complex in Virginia Beach, VA. With the victory, Berkeley (15-6-1) capped a tremendous season by capturing the program's first USCAA Division II title. Following the victory, Head Coach Stavros Zomopoulos spoke glowingly about his team.
"These student-athletes believed in the system, believed in themselves, and always believed that through hard work and diligence, that they would enjoy success," Zomopoulos said. "This was the culmination of four months of working and building to this moment. Through this season, these young men learned how to become a team and win as a team. They've learned valuable lessons over the course of this journey, and the championship that they captured today is something they'll always cherish. I'm extraordinarily proud of them."
Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte, who backed into the championship contest by virtue of Berkeley College New Jersey's loss to Penn State Beaver the previous day, had a number of opportunities in the opening half, but the Wildcats six shots on goal were all stopped by Knights netminder Dario Cruz Sepulveda. On the flip side, the Knights registered 14 shots in the opening 45 minutes of action, including three on goal. Two of those aforementioned three shots on net were saved, but Wildcats goaltender Vincent Diep couldn't save Amadou Sy's rocket into the net at 27:12. That goal was the lone tally of the opening session, with Ryuji Sugiyama recording the assist on the goal.
68 seconds into the second half, Sy would strike again thanks to an error by Diep. The Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte goaltender was looking to clear the ball, but in trying to do so, he sniped it right into the body of the Dakar, Senegal product. The ball richocheted, deflecting off Diep and into the net (at 46:08) to make it 2-0 Knights. The tall sophomore would strike again at 66:32, receiving a beautiful pass from Marcos Leon before burying the ball into the goal to make it 3-0. The Wildcats would only register three more shots the right of the way, as Berkeley would advance for the shutout victory.
Sy scored five goals in the tournament, including three this evening and two against the previous National titlists, Penn State Brandywine. 55 percent of the shots he put on goal over the past two contests ended up finding the back of the net.
Cruz-Sepulveda, Berkeley's All-World netminder, lowered his USCAA Tournament G.A.A. to 0.13 over five matches. In Berkeley's three contests during the 2019 tournament, the sophomore did now allow a goal. This evening, with the stakes the highest, he stopped all eight shots put on goal by the Wildcats.
Verna, who finished second on the team in total points (26) for the Knights in 2019, picked up two assists in Berkeley's 2-0 victory over Penn State Brandywine this past Saturday.
Sugiyama, who recorded what might be regarded as the "momentum-swinging" goal for the Knights in this tournament (his overtime game-winner against SMCC on Friday evening), shut down Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte's offensive standout Zach Savage. Savage came into this evening's match with a team-leading eight goals for the Wildcats, but he was only able to generate three shots, including just one on goal for the night.
Elvenes, who has been one of coach Zomopoulos' best defenders, if not the best throughout the 2019 campaign, was excellent in the tournament, often neutralizing the best offensive players of all three teams Berkeley shut down over the past week.
The Knights defense capped an incredible five match stretch in which the Berkeley defenders didn't allow a goal. Overall, Berkeley College hasn't yieled a score in 495:38.
Berkeley College Head Coach Stavros Zomopoulos, who has paced the Knights to four Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships, and four appearances in the USCAA Tournament, added another incredible accolade to his extensive soccer resume by pacing the New York men's soccer team to the institution's first National title. Tonight's triumph for Zomopoulos was also his 120th in 11 years at Berkeley.
For Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte, it'll go down as another very successful season in which the Wildcats came up just short of that elusive National crown. A season ago, the Wildcats lost the National title match 1-0 to Penn State Brandywine in overtime. This year, things were settled in regulation, as Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte was unable to muster a score despite registering 10 shots. Still, the Wildcats have won 42 matches over the past three seasons, and figure to be in the running as one of the favorites for the National title next year again.
History is written by the victors, and it was a fitting finale for a Berkeley College Knights team that won 15 matches this season (including seven of their final eight). In addition to winning the school's first-ever USCAA Division II National title, the Knights also captured the HVIAC crown for the fourth time, and boasted a USCAA Division II Player of the Year, three USCAA First-Team All Americans, one USCAA Second Team All-American, three USCAA Academic All-Americans, an HVIAC Player of the Year, and four HVIAC All-Conference selections. The Knights will enjoy this well-deserved title tonight and into the offseason, and will look to make a run at back-to-back National titles when the 2020 season begins in late August!