EVAN GRAY / THE EAGLE
Fourth time’s the charm will have to turn into five next year, after the Lafayette Leopards defeated the AU men’s soccer team, 2-0, Nov. 11 at Reeves Field in the Patriot League title game.
The drought continues for AU (11-6-2), as the team lost its fourth straight Patriot League Championship game and second in a row at home.
“You look in a mirror and say, ‘What are we doing wrong?’ because we don’t win it,” AU head coach Todd West said. “On some level, we’re doing something right because we keep getting the team here. This is as hard a loss as I’ve ever had.”
The win gives the Leopards their first league championship since 2005, and they will face Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s been a few years for me so it feels great, but I’m just so proud of our players,” Lafayette head coach Dennis Bohn said.
Lafayette (9-7-4) used its physical style of play to put the young AU defense on its heels early and converted on a corner kick in the 20th minute.
Sean Peckham took the corner and sent it to Kyle Scharfenberg, who was able to glance a head past AU goalkeeper Billy Knutsen just outside the six-yard box for the 1-0 Lafayette lead.
The Eagles had limited chances to equalize, but a big opportunity came in the 32nd minute. After a corner kick by Colin Seigfreid, a scramble in the box forced the official to give Lafayette defender Rob Bedson a yellow card and Eagles a penalty kick as well.
Alassane Kane stepped up with the chance to tie the game, but Lafayette goalkeeper Nathan McDonald guessed correctly to deny the senior and keep the Leopards up 1-0 going into halftime.
Seigfreid and Dale McDonald registered back-to-back opportunities out of the break, but both attempts went just wide.
On an AU corner in the 64th minute, Cristobal Soto’s header forced Nathan McDonald to come away with the diving save. A brawl ensued moments after the save, ending with Lafayette’s Nate Arronson receiving a cut below the eye and Dale McDonald being sent out with a straight red card.
Lafayette quickly capitalized on the advantage, as a miscommunication between Knutsen and Soto allowed Peter Adubato to take the ball away and finish, putting the Leopards up 2-0 and delivering the knockout punch to the Eagles.
Nate McDonald was named Tournament MVP, as Lafayette shut out both of its tournament opponents.
For AU and West, this loss hurts just as much as the previous three.
“Obviously I have to credit them, they did what they had to do to get the win,” West said. “Playing with a red card and a man down makes things difficult. Credit to them, but I think we came out a little nervous, tentative. You think having played in a few of these, the guys would know, but it’s still a big stage and we didn’t have our best game on the big stage today.”