Men's soccer upsets UNCW to earn CAA semifinal win
The No. 3 Hofstra men’s soccer team scored two goals in the final 11 minutes of action to upset the No. 2 UNC-Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks, 2-1 in the CAA semifinals.
Senior Sean Nealis and junior Luke Brown both scored in the win, while goalkeeper Alex Ashton made two saves in the second half to hold on to the lead.
“[I’m] incredibly proud of how we played in the second half,” Hofstra head coach Richard Nuttall said. “We had a ‘never say die’ attitude. So proud of the guys.”
Early on, Hofstra applied heavy pressure, resulting in two yellow cards for the Seahawks and a free kick from just outside the box by Brown; however, his shot was right into Seahawk goalie Ryan Cretens’ arms. Cretens had five saves in the loss.
After the save on the free kick, the momentum swung the way of the Seahawks, but the Pride defense was ready. While the Seahawks dominated possession for a bit, it never amounted to much in terms of shots on target.
The Pride blocked four shots in a row before Nealis picked up a yellow card in the 31st minute. Seahawks junior Danny Reynolds buried a beautiful curling free kick from thirty-yards out, narrowly beating the outstretched limb of Ashton, putting the Seahawks up 1-0. Neither team was able to have any more meaningful possession before the end of the half.
The Pride came out of halftime looking more confident. After allowing a couple early corners that the Seahawks were unable to convert, the Pride started to put real pressure on Cretens and the UNCW defense.
It eventually paid off as they scored on a corner just four minutes later, a beautiful ball from senior defender Marcus Lindqvist that found Nealis at the peak of his jump. Nealis’ shot beat Cretens cleanly.
“[Nealis] is just stud of a player,” Nuttall said. “He got on the end of a great corner ... and buried it well. I can’t say enough about him.”
In the 85th minute, the Seahawks goalie tried to bring the ball out quickly after making a save, and had it poached off his feet by Brown, who jogged the ball into the net to put Hofstra up 2-1.
Hofstra hung on for the next five minutes against a largely deflated Seahawks team, and, with the win, advance to the CAA finals.
Hofstra earned its seventh CAA finals appearance and its first since winning the title in 2015.
The Pride is 4-2 in its previous CAA Championship games. They will play James Madison University this Sunday, Nov. 11, at Sentara Park at 1 p.m.
Photo Courtesy of Hofstra Athletics