KINGS POINT, NY – U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) defeated Sage in the 99th minute of overtime to win the Skyline Conference Championship title 1-0 Saturday afternoon.
After a foul on a Kevin Saar (Binghamton, NY/Windsor Central) free kick in the 5th minute, Sage's (7-8-3) Paul Reynoso (Oswego, NY/G. Ray Bodley) took a 25 yard shot off a free kick that was saved by USMMA's (13-4-2) Cory Maier.
USMMA controlled the game with four straight set pieces over the next ten minutes, but Mike Chiaravalloti (Torrington, CT/Oliver Wolcott) came up with three big saves for the Gators.
The momentum switched Sage's way in the 23rd minute when River Seybolt (Selden, NY/Longwood) hit a byline cross to a running Derlis Zayas (White Plains, NY/White Plains) at the near post, but the cross just missed the forward's feet. A minute later, Maier came up with his second save on a Saar free kick at the top left corner of the penalty box.
After some back-and-forth action, USMMA put on a counterattack, but quality 1v1 defense from Anthony Williamson (Beacon, NY/Beacon) prevented the Mariners from getting into scoring position. A minute later, USMMA's Jon Tarbox took a shot at the far post that Chiaravalloti saved with a diving effort. The Mariners continued to push forward with Brennan Becker serving a ball into the box that was headed away by Sage's Ryan Fairweather (Middletown, NY/Minisink Valley). Four minutes later, Gavin Yingling's shot was blocked by the Gator defense. The Mariners' Michael Heckmuller shot a header in the 40th minute that was saved on the far post by Chiaravalloti.
In the 42nd minute, Sage's Liam Hayes (Rensselaer, NY/Columbia) landed a shot for the Gators that was blocked by the Mariner defense, so the score remained 0-0 at the half.
Sage came out early in the second half when Zayas played a through ball to Seybolt at the top of the penalty box in the 53rd minute, but USMMA's Brian Nickel made a textbook slide tackle to keep the sophomore from taking a shot.
A minute later, the Mariners' Tim Hughes had a blocked shot off a Tarbox corner for Mariners' first shot of the half. Nine minutes later, Alex Niemann's shot was blocked by Sage's Christian Pinti (Slate Hill, NY/Minisink Valley).
In the 64th minute, Pinti and Hayes strung together a give-and-go at the top of the Mariner box that created a saved shot for James Lagunas (Passaic, NJ/Passaic County Technical) from the top corner of the penalty box.
Williamson kept up his strong 1v1 defense when he broke up a potential Tarbox breakaway on the right sideline. The senior defenseman followed up his effort by preventing a Hannes Rogers cross on the other side of the field three minutes later.
After two straight shots from USMMA, Sage's best opportunity of the game came in the 75th minute when Reynoso took a shot from the center of the penalty box that was saved by Maier. The Mariners responded less than a minute later when Brendon-Rey Jumaoas took a shot high on an open net.
The Sage defense remained strong over the next 11 minutes as USMMA had four shots on two corners. Chiaravalloti continued to be a force to recon with as he came up with three big saves for the Gators.
Sage's final shot of regulation came in the 89th minute when Seybolt took a shot after beating a defender 1v1. The sophomore's attempt went right into the hands of Maier for his sixth save of the game.
With time winding down on the clock, USMMA was awarded a corner kick in the last 30 seconds to try to end the stalemate. Hughes found the head of Nickle whose shot went wide. Hannes's feet found the rebound, but his effort was blocked to force overtime.
Overtime started with a foul on the Mariners at the top left corner of the penalty box. Saar hit a low bouncing ball to a running Fairweather, but the sophomore just missed the flick for a shot.
USMMA took three straight shots over the next seven minutes until Hughes played a floating ball into the Sage box with less than two minutes to play. Rogers found the cross and flicked the ball on to Yingling for the game-winning header in the 99th minute of action.
The top seeded USMMA was named the 2016 Skyline Conference Men's Soccer Championship with Yingling as the Championship MVP. The Mariners receive an automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament. The selection show to reveal the 62-team field is set to begin Mon. Nov., 7 at 1 p.m.
Maier (13-4-2) was credited with the win on seven saves while Chiaravalloti (4-3-2) picked up the loss on an outstanding nine save effort. USMMA outshot Sage 25-8 while holding an 8-1 advantage on corners. Tarbox recorded a game-high four shots while Sage was led by Seybolt, Reynoso and Saar with two apiece.
Sage, the sixth and final seed in the Skyline Championship, finished the year as the 2016 Skyline Championship Runner-Up after winning the title the year prior.
The Gators graduate seniors Pinti, Alex Lanza (Poughkeepsie, NY/Spackenkill), Lai Le (Walnut, CA/Walnut) and Juan Victoria (Ellenville, NY/Minisink Valley). Together, these four seniors have seen Sage to its first Skyline Championship Title, first NCAA Tournament appearance, four straight Skyline Championships and two straight ECAC Metro Tournament appearances.
The Skyline All-Conference selections are set to be released Monday afternoon.