Greg Cox (Brookline MA) knew what had to be done in his last regular season game as a Husky.
And with 15 minutes left on the clock he got it done.
The senior captain took a solid pass across the middle from senior Sinisa Bajic (Belgrade, Serbia) and slotted a shot home under the diving Rhode Island College keeper to give the Huskies a 1-0 win over the Anchormen and the school’s first-ever LEC regular season crown.
“The fact thatit was Sinisa to Greg meant a lot,” senior Ben Sagle (Scarborough) said. “They’re seniors and they been our most offensively productive players.”
In a game where RIC came out very psychical with hard tackles and three yellow cards in the first half – an effort to slow down the Husky offense – USM used solid ball control and defense to down the previously unbeaten RIC squad. “It wasn’t a cheap game. It was what you expect in a conference game,” Slagle said.
While Goal-scoring opportunities came at a premium, the Huskies were able to limit RIC’s chances while capitalizing on theirs.
After the first half the tone for attacking had been set. USM looked to a structured attack a deliberate pace to control the action, while RIC tried to dump the ball to it’s speedy forwards in hopes of a breakout chance.
Shortly into the second half, a cross from the left by Slagle looked promising but ended up in the side netting after a blistering run up the side from the forward.
Several minutes later RIC began to ramp up its offense and challenged the USM defense in consecutive attack, culminating in a slalom run down the middle from Adam Philbin and a curling kick saved by a diving David Kreps (Agawam, MA), who earned the shutout in net.
The Anchormen had their chances, but could capitalize.
A direct free kick almost resulted in a goal from RIC when Kreps dropped the ball after a save, and an ambitious RIC attacker knocked it free.
The effort was saved off the line by sophomore Nick Johnson (South Portland) to keep the game even, and soon after the Huskies went ahead with the Bajic to Cox connection.
And then the Huskies went into lockdown mode to secure the win. The played a relatively cautious final 15 minutes, trying to prevent any late-game heroics by RIC.
But the Anchormen made one final push when Ben Coco got free with four minutes remaining in the game. Luckily, the Husky defense was able to track him down to finally sink the Anchormen and secure their fate as the number one team in the conference, which affords them the luxury of hosting both potential playoff games. “Up to this point we’ve done everything we can to put ourselves in position to achieve our ultimate goal of making the NCAA tournament,” Slagle said.
The Huskies finish their regular season with a 12-7-1 record overall and an impressive 6-1 mark in the Little East. The Anchormen, who will enter the Little East Conference tournament as the second seed, finish their 2008 campaign at 10-5-4 overall and 5-1-1 in conference.
The Huskies were out-shot by RIC 9 to 4 in the contest.
USM will play host to the winner of Western Connecticut and Plymouth State on Wednesday, Nov. 5 in Gorham in the semifinals of the LEC tournament. “Whoever we play we know it’s going to be a tough game,” Slagle added.