Men's Soccer Heads to NCAA "Sweet 16"

Montclair, NJ (11/16/08) – Junior midfielder John Esposito (Hillside, NJ / Hillside) scored with 19:58 remaining to snap a scoreless tie as Montclair State advanced to the sectionals of the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship with a 1-0 victory over Westminster College at Sprague Field on Sunday afternoon.

The Red Hawks, the lone unbeaten and untied team in the tournament, picked up their school-record 21 st victory as they are now 21-0-0 on the season. MSU broke the mark of 20 set by its 2006 squad and also captured its 37 th consecutive home victory dating back to 2005.

MSU, which reached the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, will face either Rochester or Messiah College in the “Sweet 16” next weekend at a place and time to be determined on Monday, November 17. Last season, Montclair fell to Messiah 1-0 in the sectional final in Grantham, PA. It will be Montclair’s third consecutive appearance in the Sectional Tournament as the Red Hawks are making their ninth Division III Tournament appearance.

Sophomore goalkeeper Mike Codita ( Sewickley, PA / Quaker Valley) had five saves for Westminster, which concludes its season at 17-6 establishing a new single-season mark for victories. The Titans reached the second round by ousting Hunter College 2-0 at home on Thursday. Westminster, the Presidents’ Athletic Conference champion, was making its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2004. The Titans also participated in the 2002 NCAAs.

Montclair State held Westminster without a shot in the first half however the Red Hawks could not convert any of their five chances. Michael Cullen ( Clementon, NJ / Highland) had the first attempt on goal but his header was stopped by Codita at the 32:15 mark. MSU would get another chance just over a minute when Esposito tried to head one past Codita only to be denied at the game went into halftime deadlocked.

Codita would come up with another save early in the second half on a shot by Rodrigo Santiago ( Wharton, NJ / Morris Hills) and then got some help from the pipes as Joe Cullen ( Clementon, NJ / Highland) and Brian Miles ( Newtown, CT / Newtown) hit the crossbar on consecutive shots in the 59 th minute. Cullen would get a second shot at 59:37 but that attempt too was swept away off the back line by a defender.

Westminster would finally get its first shot at 64:44 of the match as Garret Horvath ( Southlake, TX / Southlake Carroll) was stopped by MSU goalkeeper Nick Mele ( Delran, NJ / Delaran).

Five minutes later, Montclair would break through on the scoreboard. Off a corner kick by Joe Cullen, the ball got inside the six yard line where Esposito corralled the loose ball and banged home a shot for his 12 th goal of the season.

Following the goal, Codita made a save on Joe Cullen to keep the lead at 1-0 and the Titans nearly got the equalizer at 75:56 as Jake Huey ( Butler, PA / Butler) put a shot on net that was cleared away by a Red Hawk defender. Westminster then kept up the pressure with two more attempts, but both were saved by Mele, who would make one more on Chris Ellwanger ( South Park, PA / South Park) at 85:38.

Then with seconds ticking down an attempted clear by MSU was deflected back inside the 18. The ball got by Mele and headed toward the open goal. Miles would swoop in and knock away the attempt as Montclair went on to the one-goal victory.

Mele finished with five save as he recorded his 11 th shutout of the season.

Montclair held a 14-5 advantage in shots and 8-1 edge in corner kicks.