Twice As Nice, Xavier Wins Second Straight Atlantic 10 Championship
Nov. 13, 2011
ST. LOUIS - For the second straight season sixth-seed Xavier beat all odds and won the Atlantic 10 Championship, this time upending second-seeded George Washington in penalty kicks, 4-3, after the regulation ended in a 1-1 draw.
It's the second overall league championship for the Musketeers who earn the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Xavier's record stands at 12-4-4 heading into the 48-team tournament, which will be announced at 4:30 p.m. ET on NCAA.com.
The road to this year's title was again uphill for the Musketeers who knocked off the top three seeds again. Xavier accomplished the same feat during last year's championship run and became the first back-to-back A-10 champs since Rhode Island in 2006.
Unlike last year Xavier trailed twice in this year's tournament, including a 1-0 deficit in Sunday's match at Robert R. Hermann stadium.
The goal came in the 34th minute as Mattia Melillo settled a pass and beat goalkeeper Justin Marshall to the inside post. Xavier controlled both sides of the ball despite giving up the first goal and held the shot advantage 9-3 at the break.
Xavier continued to apply pressure in the second half, sending wave after wave of offensive chances. After several close calls the tide turned as freshman Garrett Halfhill leaped and flicked sophomore Gino Depaoli's corner kick home in the 78th minute. It was first-career goal for the midfielder who logged 82 minutes off the bench.
After two 10-minute scoreless overtime periods the teams lined up to take penalty kicks. Xavier won the coin flip for the penalty kicks and decided to go second.
George Washington's Yoni Berhanu sent his attempt over the cross bar and junior forward Luke Spencer just missed on his attempt in the first round. The Colonials would convert the next three attempts, as would DePaoli, sophomore Nick Hagglund, and junior James Queree for the Musketeers.
Alex Sandland missed his attempt for George Washington, setting up sophomore Adar Cohen for the potential game-winning PK. Cohen emptied the Xavier bench and started the celebration with his conversion. He was mobbed by his teammates as they celebrated in front of the contingency of Xavier fans.
Cohen's final strike along with his excellent play in the Musketeers' backline earned him the league's Most Outstanding Player award. Spencer, DePaoli, and Queree were also named to the All-Championship Team.
The Musketeers stifled the Colonials throughout the 110-minute match, allowing just seven shots. Offensively Xavier racked a tournament-high 23 shots. DePaoli led all players with five shots and four shots on goal. Melillo had three shots to lead the Colonials.
Marshall (9-3-3) made two saves in net for the Musketeers and finished the tournament having allowed just two goals in 292 minutes of play. The Colonials' goalkeeper Brendan Lafferty (6-3-4) stopped seven shots.