El-Hadji Dieng scored his second goal of the year to lift the Musketeers to victory.
Nov. 7, 2010
BRONX, N.Y. -Senior El-Hadji Dieng gave the Xavier men's soccer team not only a win, but a spot in the Atlantic 10 Conference championship, after scoring the decisive goal in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Fordham.
The Musketeers' (8-5-3, 5-4 A-10) come-from behind victory coupled with a tie of the Saint Louis-Massachusetts game gave the Musketeers the tie breaker over Fordham (10-8, 5-4 A-10) and Massachusetts for a spot in the conference championship.
"What a great day for our players, our program and our seniors," head coach Andy Fleming said. "We achieved numerous milestones today but getting a chance to extend our season is the best feeling."
Xavier will not know its seed or opponent until Monday afternoon. This will be the first time the Musketeers will play in the conference tournament since 2006, when they were the sixth seed.
It was a slowed paced game early, with the two teams going to the break with just five shots combined. Fordham would take the lead 1-0, temporarily extinguishing the Musketeers postseason chances. But a goal at 72nd minute from Luke Spencer ignited the Musketeers, who scored 11 minutes later on Dieng's rebound goal.
"To come from behind against a top defensive team that was 6-1 at home was special," Fleming said. "Our seniors were tremendous today, scoring and assisting on the goals. Today Ryan Gray, Brandon Bucher and Matt Walker played out of their minds. We were very strong in the second half, perhaps the best we've looked all year. This is a special day to say the least."
The tournament berth comes for the Fleming and his Musketeers, who were picked to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the conference at the beginning of the season.
Heading into Sunday Xavier needed a win, and have results in two games to go its way. Temple defeated Richmond, 3-0. It also needed a win from Saint Louis or a tie, which did not look promising after the Billikens fell behind 2-0 in the second half. But two goals in four minutes tied the game and ended in a draw, giving the Musketeers the tie breaker.
Xavier earned the tie breaker after the head-to-head record versus Massachusetts and Fordham was tied at 1-1. Xavier defeated Fordham, but lost to UMass. Fordham defeated UMass, but lost to Xavier. UMass beat Xavier, but lost to Fordham.
The tie breaker then came down to conference record - by points - against common conference opponents. The three teams played Rhode Island, La Salle and Dayton. Xavier beat both Rhode Island and Dayton, while UMass beat Rhode Island and tied with La Salle and Dayton. Fordham only beat Dayton, giving the Musketeers six points compared to UMass's five and Fordham's three.
"To see the guy's reaction upon hearing of our bid was special for me and is what I coach for," Fleming said. "We now get another week together."
Julian Nagel scored the Rams' goal in the 61st minute with a header off a crossing shot by John McHugh.
Spencer's goal was the fourth of his year and the third in as many games. His header in the 72nd minute from James Getzen was his second game-tying goal in three games.
Dieng's goal was the second of the season and came one game after serving his one-game suspension following a red card against Dayton last Saturday.
Sunday marked the second time in eight days that the Musketeers rally to a 2-1 victory after falling behind.
Xavier finishes above .500 overall for the first time since 2002. It was the first time the Musketeers finished above .500 in the conference since 2006, which was also the last time Xavier qualified for the conference tournament.
The Musketeers ended up winning the shots 12-11, with seven of those shots coming from Spencer. Five Rams tallied two shots for Fordham.
Justin Marshall earned his eighth win of the year between the pipes for the Musketeers. He made three saves on the day. Ryan Meara was the losing goalkeeper for Fordham. He stopped three saves.