Knights reach NCAA Sweet Sixteen

The Gannon University men’s soccer team won its first NCAA Division II Tournament match by defeating Davis & Elkins College 2-1 at Gannon University Field Sunday afternoon.

The Knights will play in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Championship match against Mercyhurst College at Southern New Hampshire University at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

Sophomore forward Robbie Bennett scored the first goal against Davis & Elkins off a pass by senior midfielder Tyler Hollingsworth in the 14th minute of the contest. Coach Rob van Rheenen said the goal helped Gannon play their game.

“Bennett’s goal settled the team down from our nervous and shaky start to the game,” van Rheenen said.

Gannon struck again in the first half with sophomore midfielder Alex Perri picking up the assist on junior defender Haffi Bjarnason’s goal in the 23rd minute. Gannon took a 2-0 lead into halftime.

Davis & Elkins scored its lone goal of the match in the second half from the foot of sophomore midfielder Wyatt Hill. Van Rheenen said that the team played well in the first half of the game but seemed to get pinned in their half of the field for most of the second period.

Junior goal keeper Jason Barbarino recorded a season-high 11 saves during the game.

Redshirt freshman Gavin Linsell said the team felt great after winning its first NCAA match. He also said the Knights are looking forward to their next matchup against their cross-town rival.

Linsell said that playing a familiar opponent will be beneficial because the team can focus on its shortcomings from the last encounter and make the corrections for a different outcome this time around.

The Knights lost to Mercyhurst, 4-2, in their final game of the regular season.

Van Rheenen said the game being played at a neutral venue will take the home field aspect out of it, but said he likes the Knights’ chances of moving deeper into the tournament.

Van Rheenen said he wants the seniors to end their careers on a high note. He also said the seniors don’t always receive the media publicity but they are the core that keeps the team together.

The Knights’ goal all season was to make it to the big dance and now that they have tasted success, anything is possible.

“Knock-out soccer tends to show which team wants it the most and which team is going to fight to the very end,” Linsell said.

Linsell said Gannon wants the win and will fight for it this Friday with kickoff scheduled for 2:30 p.m.



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