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Men's soccer takes A-10

XU ousts top three seeds to claim second consecutive title

By Chris Ackels
On November 15, 2011

ST. LOUIS—For the second straight year, the Xavier men's soccer team was the last team in

the Atlantic 10 tournament. And for the second straight year, they came out A-10 champions.

After three dramatic games against the top three seeds in the conference, Xavier advances to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. Sunday's conference championship

match was the most dramatic, taking two overtimes and a penalty kick shootout to oust

George Washington and ice the A-10 title. After going into halfitme down 1-0, Xavier freshman Garrett

Halfhill headed in a perfectly placed corner kick from sophomore Gino DiPaoli to tie the game

in the 77th minute. And though Xavier had more than twice as many chances and nearly three

times as many shots, they were unable to net the game winner by the end of regulation.

After two overtime periods, the match came down to penalty kick shootouts. On the final shot,

sophomore Adar Cohen beat the  George Washington keeper by slotting one on the left side of the

net, sending his teammates into a frenzy, and sending the Musketeers into the NCAA Tournament.

Head Coach Andy Fleming said he's not at all surprised by his team's resiliency.

"We've been in playoff mode for three weeks," Fleming said. "The last couple of weeks, having

to just survive and barely get in the playoffs… I think all those experiences made us battle tested."

It took three battles to win the A-10 Tournament. In Thursday's quarterfinal match, the Musketeers

fell behind early to nationallyranked Charlotte, the No. 3 seed. The 49ers scored on a deflection

just 12 minutes in, forcing Xavier to play from behind. But junior forward Luke Spencer tied the game just before halftime, and redshirt freshman Will Walker won it with an overtime goal assisted by Spencer.

It was the second time in as many years that Xavier beat Charlotte in overtime in the A-10 tournament.

In Friday's semifinals, Xavier scored twice off of set pieces from DiPaoli to beat No. 1 seeded Fordham.

Junior James Queree scored the first goal early in the second half and sophomore Nick Hagglund iced it in the 77th minute to give Xavier a trip to the finals.

Fleming thinks that these close victories make his team more ready than ever for the NCAA tournament.

"We're playing really well right now," Fleming said. "I think our last five or six games have been very good. We're peaking at the right time."

The players know that this team has what it takes.

"From the beginning of the season, every practice, every game, we just go hard," Cohen said, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. "That's what we do. We're a team."

"We focus on the process, we do the little things well," Fleming said. "These guys are truly a team, they're unselfish and they really buy in to what we're trying to do."

As for Fleming, who has brought this program to 23 wins and two conference titles in his first two seasons as head coach, he says this team is ready for the next step.

On Thursday, Xavier will take winon West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Division I Soccer Tournament. Fleming has already brought the program to new heights. Now the team looks for another first in Morgantown, WV.

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