The Berkeley College New York men's soccer team is one victory away from capturing its third Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship – and first conference crown since 2012 – as the Knights today defeated the Warriors of Vaughn College by a score of 2-1 on the campus of Albany College of Pharmacy in the semifinal round of the 2015 conference tourney. With the victory, Berkeley College moved to 13-5 on the season, while Vaughn finalized its season at 2-8-2.
The Knights came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed after going an unblemished 7-0 in conference action during the regular season. The Warriors came into the match as the No. 4 seed with a 2-3-2 HVIAC mark. Just four days earlier, the teams met at Randall's Island, with the Knights claiming victory by a score of 3-0. Perhaps that meeting assisted Vaughn in preparing for the heavily-favored Berkeley College squad, as the Warriors put a scare into the Knights' quest for a conference crown.
Berkeley and Vaughn battled for 14 scoreless minutes to open the match before the Knights finally struck for the match's first tally when Hasan Sezer – who has done nothing but dominate since joining the Knights – took a beautiful pass from Ali Dahwa and buried it in the upper right corner of the net (at 14:21) to catapult Berkeley to an early one goal advantage. Later – at the 42:44 mark – Sezer struck again – this team collecting a lofted ball off of the foot of Solomon Ahanaonu before blasting it into the net (at 42:44) to give the Knights a 2-0 lead. That's the way the score would remain as the opening session came to a close.
Vaughn College refused to let its season end easily, as the Warriors sliced their lead in half just 10:08 into the second half (at 55:08) when Akheem Bailey received a pass from Denis Moshchenko and tapped the ball into the goal to make it a 2-1 contest. The Knights tried vehemently to get the goal back, recording six shots on goal the remainder of the way, but all were stopped by Warriors netminder Ahmed Aly. Berkeley's defense was equally up to the task – as the Knights would allow just three more shots the remainder of the match following Vaughn's goal in the 56th minute. Only one of those aforementioned three shots was on goal – and that shot was stopped by standout Knights goalkeeper Masahiro Kiuchi. The Knights held off Vaughn for a one-goal victory. Following the match, Berkeley College Head Coach Stavros Zomopoulos gave his thoughts.
"Coming into this match, we knew Vaughn was going to play us tough," Zomopoulos said. "The impressive thing to me about our group is that we do not lose our composure when we get down. We fell behind in the first few minutes of our match against Albany last Saturday, and we came back strong. Today – we allowed a goal to make it to 2-1 – and our defense contained them after that and didn't allow Vaughn many opportunities to score after that. I fell we have a strong-minded group – a close-knit team – and we're going to give it our best tomorrow when we play the Panthers for the championship. It's going to be a very tough match, but we will be ready."
The Knights out-shot the Warriors 27-10 in the match, and Berkeley had five corner kick opportunities compared to one for Vaughn. The fouls were just about even, with Berkeley being whistled for 16 compared to 15 for the Warriors. The Knights' Masahiro Kiuchi improved to 5-1 in net for his team with the win – saving two shots and allowing just one goal. Vaughn College's Ahmed Aly made 12 stops despite being on the losing end of the match.
In the other semifinal round match, the No. 2 seeded Panthers of Albany College of Pharmacy defeated the No. 3 seeded Mighty Oaks of SUNY ESF 5-3 in a high-scoring affair. That sets up a Knights-Panthers final in a match of two teams who have dominated the conference since the championship tournament began back in 2008, with Albany winning the title five times, and the Knights twice. The winner-take-all match between the two squads is scheduled for 11:30am tomorrow. Keep it posted to www.BerkeleyCollegeKnights.com for all of the latest on the Berkeley College New York men's soccer team's quest for conference supremacy!