UConn men’s soccer coach Ray Reid could not have asked for a better draw in the round of sixteen of the NCAA soccer tournament as the Huskies scored nineteen minutes in en route to a 3-0 win over James Madison in Storrs Sunday afternoon before a capacity crowd of 4,983. Junior mid Carlos Alvarez’s finish from the right side on an assist from senior forward Tony Cascio proved to be the game winner as the Huskies (19-3-2) pressured the Dukes (13-5-2) defense and goalie Justin Epperson (4 Saves) all afternoon long to advance to semi’s to face the Charlotte 49ers. Charlotte (16-4-2) defeated the defending national champs Akron 1-0 and will come to Storrs next Saturday with the winner advancing onto the final four at Region Park in Hoover, Alabama. The Huskies opened the tournament as a regional #1 seed and garnered the #3 seed overall.
“I thought our guys played playoff soccer”, said Reid, “We played good enough to win. We were pretty smart. They (Huskies) were very good in practice this week. They were very focused all week and I thought they were very good today.”
Unlike the tentative start in the second round win over Monmouth last Sunday, the Huskies came out with tremendous energy looking to exploit the overmatched Dukes defensive line almost scoring seven minutes in on a great combination from Alvarez to Mamadou Diouf back to Alvarez. Only a great stop by Epperson, one of a handful on the afternoon, kept the Huskies off the board early. Twelve minutes later Alvarez found the back left of the net as Cascio dribbled the ball down the mid field before finding Alvarez on a perfectly timed pass giving the Huskies the 1-0 lead. Two more tremendous stops by Epperson later in the first kept the score at 1-0 heading into the half despite UConn outshooting James Madison 8-1 after the first 45 minutes.
“Hard work in practice for the guys and I think it showed”, said Cascio,”Once we got that first goal, they came at us, but it opened up the rest (of the game) and we were able to capitalize on the situation.”
Mamadou Diouf netted his 13th goal of the season in the 63rd minute after drawing a foul in the Dukes penalty box on a take down by defender Karel Manrau. Epperson played the penalty kick perfectly but couldn’t control the ball and Diouf took the rebound drilling the ball into the net for the 2-0 lead. Two minutes later Alvarez found Cascio for UConn’s third goal to close out the scoring. UConn outshot JMU 16-5 for the game with UConn’s defense not allowing a single shot on goal for the game.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted today, but if we’re going to go out”, said JMU coach Tom Martin, “This is a good place to go out with all the history and heritage this place holds.”