NEW LONDON, Conn. – Top-seeded Mitchell College held on for a 1-0 victory over third-seeded Elms College in the title game of the 2017 New England Collegiate Conference Men's Soccer Championship on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Field.
Brayan Mora netted the game's lone goal in the 35th minute, his third marker of the season. A second-half red card forced Mitchell to play a man down for the final 32 minutes. The Mariners packed in their defense and turned Elms away at every chance.
Mitchell's James Shea was named the most valuable player for the tournament. Joining him on the all-championship team were teammates Eduardo Tineo, Andrew Storton and Seth Strader.
The Mariners (9-8-1 overall), who claimed the conference crown for the first time in school history, also earned the NECC's automatic bid for the NCAA Division III Championship. The complete NCAA tournament field will be announced on Monday, November 6 at 1:30 p.m.
The teams battled for 35 scoreless minutes before Mora broke the stalemate. Mitchell played a ball into the Elms box from midfield, where a defender headed the ball up in the air. Another Blazers defender then tried to head the ball away, but it deflected off a Mitchell player and settled just to the left of the penalty spot in front of the goal. Mora was in the right place at the right time, and he beat Elms goalkeeper AJ Oliviera to the ball and poked it into the left corner for the 1-0 Mitchell lead.
Elms had a chance to equalize in the 41st minute off a corner kick as Babba Jaden put a header on frame. However, Strader was there to make the stop for the Mariners, who took the 1-0 margin into the break.
The Blazers had another golden opportunity just five minutes into the second half when Myles Hurley fired a shot off the left post. Three minutes later, Elms had a free kick from just outside the 18, but the Mitchell wall blocked the shot attempt by Anthony Romei.
The referee handed out a red card in the 58th minute that took a Mitchell player off the field. From that point on the Mariners played cautiously, keeping nine players on the defensive end and just one up top. Elms outshot Mitchell 10-2 following the booking but didn't put a single attempt on goal.
Strader finished with one save against 19 total shots. Oliveira made four stops for the Blazers against 11 shots.
Elms finished the season with an overall record of 8-12-1. The Blazers placed four players on the all-championship team—Romei, Justin Kassouf, C.J. Dabkowski and Colby Macdonald.
The win avenged Mitchell's lone conference loss of the regular season. The Mariners dropped their NECC opener to Elms on September 23 but went on to win their next six league contests, finishing atop the conference standings for the third time in the past 10 years.
2017 NECC Men's Soccer All-Championship Team
Kevin Teixeira (Newbury)
Nilton De Andrade (Newbury)
Anthony Vitta (Lesley)
Ben Heischuber (Lesley)
Justin Kassouf (Elms)
C.J. Dabkowski (Elms)
Colby Macdonald (Elms)
Anthony Romei (Elms)
Eduardo Tineo (Mitchell)
Andrew Storton (Mitchell)
Seth Strader (Mitchell)
MVP: James Shea (Mitchell)