The Gannon University men’s soccer team reached the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship game for the first time in school history, but came up short in a 1-0 loss to East Stroudsburg Sunday in West Chester.
The second-seeded Knights, who finished the season 11-7-1, advanced to the finals by beating the No. 3 seed, Millersville, 2-0, Friday.
East Stroudsburg came into Sunday’s championship game as the PSAC’s No. 4 seed, but the Warriors had a history of success with 19 previous PSAC championships.
The first and only goal of the match was struck at four minutes off a penalty kick that Gannon coach Dale White called “a poor call.” Warrior Jo Panuccio’s kick hit off the top of the cross bar and landed in the back of the Gannon net.
The Knights were stumped by the Warrior defense, unable to get a shot off in the first half. But Gannon proved to be a very determined second-half team, taking 11 shots at the Warriors net.
Five of these shots were on goal, but Warrior goaltender Will Boerema deflected each of the attempts.
Mathias Krigbaum, the team’s top scorer on the season, George Stannard and Austin Ludwick each tallied two shots for the Knights.
This year marked the first time that the Knights reached the tournament title game since they joined the league in 2008, and it’s the third time they reached the playoffs.
Friday’s semifinal match against Millersville began with a quick goal for the Knights off Eduardo de Bonis Encinoso’s pass down the middle to Krigbaum.
Taking a difficult shot, Krigbaum placed it perfectly in the top right corner out of reach of Millersville goalkeeper Darian McCauley to give the Knights a 1-0 lead five minutes into the game.
Defensive play was sharp for both teams as only seven combined shots were recorded before halftime.
The Knights found their second and final goal of the match off an impressive curved shot by Srdjan Dujkovic after he was fouled in the box at 75 minutes.
Dujkovic bent the penalty kick around the Millersville defensive wall, and it landed in the bottom left corner of the Millersville net.
Goaltender Jorge Hernandez claimed the defensive victory for the Knights, adding to his standout season with 10 victories and six shutouts this year.
Millersville and the Knights both took eight shots throughout the match.
The Marauders registered 19 fouls to Gannon’s 14.
Prior to Friday’s semifinal game, Gannon senior Joshua Ott was named the PSAC Soccer Champion Scholar, which is awarded to the student-athlete with the top grade point average competing at each of the conference’s 23 championship finals.
Ott, an electrical engineering major, boasts a 3.972 GPA. He has started all 36 of the Knights’ matches over the past two years and 51 of 52 career matches.
Although the Knights are finished with their season, East Stroudsburg and West Chester will represent the conference as they go head-to-head Saturday in the NCAA Division II Tournament.