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November 18. 2012 7:55PM

SNHU booters dominate - and lose in NCAA Div. II Elite Eight


Southern New Hampshire University's Jordan Branco, center, looks away as Mercyhurst University players Austin Solomon, left, and David Dougherty, right, celebrate their 2-1 win in the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship fourth-round game at SNHU Sunday. (MARK BOLTON/UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER - The Southern New Hampshire University men's soccer season came to an abrupt end in a 2-1 loss to Mercyhurst University on Sunday in an NCAA Division II Elite Eight tournament game.

The Penmen (19-4) controlled the flow of the game, dominated the match physically - and lost. They stymied the Lakers' speedy attack, created 14 shots on net and lost to the Atlantic Region champs from Erie, Pa., before 700 disappointed fans.

Mercyhurst (17-5-1) managed three shots on goal yet scored two goals, earning a trip to the Final Four round, starting Nov. 29 in Evans, Ga. The win was Mercyhurst's ninth straight; SNHU's seven-game win streak was snapped.

"Imagine what would have happened if we had more shots," said Mercyhurst's Alex Menea. The Lakers forward netted the game winner and assisted on his team's first goal. "We usually dominate, control and press. Today was a different story. (SNHU) was a good team. They took our game away. We had to find a way to adjust and maybe use a little luck."

The Lakers took swift action on a pair of Penmen defensive lapses and withstood a valiant SNHU comeback bid to earn their first trip to the Final Four since 2002.

"We been here (the national quarterfinal round) three times in the past four years and each time we've walked off the field feeling as if we deserved more," said Penmen coach Marc Hubbard. "Today was no different."

The Penmen conceded their first goal of the NCAA tourney in the 26th minute of play when Manea, the Lakers' leading scorer, scooted a pass to Austin Solomon near the top right corner of the box for a one-touch shot that sailed inside the near post.

To that point, the Penman owned the ball but couldn't build any solid scoring chances. Other than a couple of set piece kicks that were quickly booted away, the Lakers didn't place the ball near the goal until scoring, overloading one side of the pitch to free Solomon for his quick shot.

"I think we were lulled a little bit," said Hubbard. "(Mercyhurst) allowed us to keep the ball and, as a result, we took too long to make decisions and became predictable. We developed a sense of urgency once we fell behind."

SNHU tied the game at 40:43 on a quick counter attack when Miguel Carneiro swiped the ball and sent it to Kenney Doublette on a run down the right flank. The sophomore forward broke toward the post, forced the Laker keeper to commit and then dished the ball to Chris Tsonis for a point-blank score.

The tally was the 16th of the year and third of the postseason for Tsonis.

Mercyhurst reclaimed the lead at 60:10 when Fernando Martinez swiped a Penman defensive clear attempt, giving the Solomon-Manea duo another chance at converting a short pass and one-touch shot into a goal. Manea was on the finishing end, netting his 16th of the season.

This was the second time all season SNHU surrendered more than one goal to an opponent. Entering play, they had outscored the opposition 54-11.

Behind again, SNHU generated seven good scoring chances. The Mercyhurst goalkeeper made two brilliant saves. A defender cleared one shot heading toward an open net.

"They came at us hard, but doubt can bring out the best in you and we got through somehow," said Manea.

"This is going to hurt for a while," said Hubbard. "It's tough to lose a game like this at home."

eemmerling@unionleader.com

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