After 120 minutes of scoreless soccer, the CUNYAC mens soccer championship match between defending champion York and CCNY would be decided by penalty kicks.
And Chimela Okoro wanted nothing to do with it.
But before the teams lined up for the shootout under the lights at the Metropolitan Oval Saturday, York sophomore keeper Stephane Koutouo made a pact with Okoro, Yorks senior leader on and off the field.
He said if I stop one and you score the last one, thats all it takes, Okoro recalled.
Koutouo proved prophetic, making a difficult diving stop while Okoro netted the championship-clinching kick as the Cardinals defeated the Beavers 1-0, 4-2 in the shootout, to advance to the Division III NCAA tournament.
The Cardinals will head to Bristol, R.I. to face Commonwealth Coast Conference champion Roger Williams University (16-5-1) in the first round of the NCAA tournament in a game to be played Wednesday afternoon.
Back home they usually say the best player on the team misses the penalty kick, said Okoro, a native Nigerian. When the game ended I thought, Please don't pick me.
Yorks first-year head coach Linval Cunningham, who said he knew a night earlier the game would be decided by penalty kicks, didnt hesitate to send Okoro to the spot.
With chants of MVP, MVP, MVP, cascading from the stands, Okoro buried the ball past CCNY keeper Roger Cyrus, despite not heeding the advice he offered teammates before the shootout.
I told the guys dont change your mind when you get ready to shoot, said the tournaments MVP. But I took one split second to watch where the goalkeeper was standing. He moved to his left and I just put it past him to his right.
While Okoro scored the game-winner, it was Koutouo who set the tone for top-seeded York (13-3). After Godwin Uwechew put No. 2 CCNY (13-4) ahead with a goal down the middle of the net, Koutouo, who played forward for Cunningham at Campus Magnet before becoming goalkeeper his senior year, sent a low shot to Cyrus left.
Cyrus got a piece of the ball, but it rolled off his fingertips into the net to even the score at 1.
I felt like it was going in, Koutouo said. I didnt think he would touch it. When he got a hand on it, I was shocked, but it still went in.
Koutouo followed with a lunging save, stopping Gary Byrne on the following penalty kick to give the Cardinals the advantage.
If I would say one person led us to a beautiful season and a championship it was our goalkeeper, Okoro said. The team is good and our goalkeeper led us all the way. I love that guy.
For CCNY, it was yet another frustrating loss to York. The Beavers, who dominated play in the second half, fell to the Cardinals, 1-0 in last years semifinal and lost again 1-0 during the regular season.
Last time we lost to them in the regular season, we didnt play good, said CCNY freshman midfielder Santiago Helman. In this case we really dominated the game but if you dont score you dont deserve to win.
York 4, Hunter 2. Paul Cardoza had two goals, Cheick Keita and Evans Jean-Pierre had a goal apiece to lead the Cardinals to a semifinal win over No. 4 Hunter (5-13-1) Wednesday at the Oval.
SJU women fall 2-0 at Notre Dame in Big East quarterfinals
The St. Johns women's soccer team doesnt make the Big East tournament often, but when the Red Storm does qualify they certainly dont bow out quietly.
For the first time since upsetting host Connecticut to win the 1994 tournament, St. Johns made the tournament and nearly shocked the college soccer world as the Red Storm narrowly lost 2-0 to defending Big East champion No. 6 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. Sunday in the Big East quarterfinals.
The Fighting Irish (14-2-1) scored two goals in the opening 13 minutes to clinch the win as Notre Dame advances to the semifinals to face Boston College. While St. Johns (6-11-0) was eliminated from the tournament, the result is a huge improvement from the Red Storms 7-0 loss at Notre Dame Oct. 12.
Queens College 30-30-30, Southampton 24-12-25. Noelia Castillo and Cassidy Mariano had 15 kills apiece to lead Queens College (21-9) in the New York Collegiate Athletic Conference quarterfinals. The Lady Knights advance to the semifinals to face Concordia.
The NYCAC final is slated for Friday night.
Rutgers 30-25-34-30, St. Johns 22-30-32-28. Rosalyn Dang had 12 kills and 13 digs, Kristy Mercein had 11 kills and a team-high 18 digs and Sarah McCrary added a team-high 16 kills and five digs for the Red Storm (17-8, 5-5 Big East) in a tough conference loss Sunday at Alumni Hall as St. Johns was mathematically eliminated from the four-team Big East tournament.
St. Johns 24-30-28-30-15, Villanova 30-22-30-13. Jennifer Emelogu set a school record for solo blocks in a match with eight, Dang had 16 kills and 10 digs, Mercein had 10 kills and 14 digs and Robyn Kurasaki dished out a season-high 64 assists and had seven digs in the win at Alumni Hall Friday night.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2001 Community News Group
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