Keystone College’s men’s soccer team dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 decision at Cabrini University in the Colonial States Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday afternoon.
The top-seeded Cavaliers (10-8-1) scored the game’s lone goal on their only shot on goal of the game in the 72nd minute to claim the conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Giants, who were the No. 2 seed in the CSAC playoffs, end their historic season with a 13-5-1 record, while finishing as the CSAC runner-up after making the first championship game appearance in program history.
Keystone’s 13 wins this fall are the second most in a season in program history and the most since the team began competing at the NCAA Division III level in 2004.
Keystone had the game’s first good look of Saturday’s championship contest in the 12th minute, but freshman Talhah Netherlin’s shot from 10 yards out was denied by a nice save by Cabrini goalkeeper Mike Gould.
Senior Rolando Rodriguez fired just wide off the far post from distance in the 33rd minute before junior Kouassi Kouadio forced Gould into another save a minute later.
Cabrini had several chances in the first half off of restarts, but Keystone held the Cavaliers without a shot on goal over the opening 45 minutes of play, as the two teams went into halftime deadlocked at 0-0.
The Giants held a 5-2 advantage in shots in the opening stanza along with a 2-0 edge in shots on goal.
Both teams had four corner kick chances apiece in the half.
Cabrini took the first five shots of the second half and had a trio of near-misses in the opening 20 minutes of the frame.
The Cavaliers then broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute when John Griffin found the back of the net.
Keystone’s defense blocked a shot from outside the box by Christopher Araujo, but the ball fell to Griffin behind the Giants’ defense, where he slotted the eventual game-winner past senior Steven Heintz, Jr., despite appeals for an offsides call from the visitors.
Gould handled a shot from Netherlin in the 78th minute before Netherlin laced a shot from long range just over the bar minutes later.
Kouadio saw a shot go wide in the 83rd minute as Keystone pushed numbers forward in search of the equalizer.
The Cavaliers missed a chance to ice the game with just under three minutes remaining in regulation, while Keystone had one final chance to tie the game on a corner kick with 30 seconds remaining.
However, the Giants were unable to get a shot on frame as Cabrini was able to hang on for the victory.
Gould made three saves to pick up the shutout win for Cabrini, while Heintz played well in net for the Giants despite not being credited with a save as the senior came off his line well to deal with a number of dangerous crosses and restarts.
Cabrini finished the contest with a slim 9-8 edge in shots while Keystone had three of the game’s four shots on goal.
The Giants also held an 8-5 lead in corner kick chances on the afternoon.
Netherlin’s three shots led Keystone while Kouadio attempted two shots in the loss for the visitors.
Keystone seniors Heintz, Rodriguez, Frank Heter III, Abreham Kittel and Jalen Freeman saw their playing careers for the Giants come to an end after leading the program to three CSAC playoff appearances, two conference semifinal trips, and this year’s CSAC runner-up finish.
The Giants advanced to the championship game with a 3-1 victory over Centenary University on Thursday.
Keystone generated several dangerous chances over the first nine minutes, and Heintz, Jr. came up with the first big save, diving to his left to parry away a shot from 20 yards out that was labeled for the first side-netting.
Keystone broke through with the game’s first goal with exactly 18 minutes remaining in the first half as Bonilla slipped a thru-ball to Tounkara, who buried his one-on-one chance with Centenary goalkeeper Devon Warne to the near post.
Tounkara’s goal was his sixth of the fall while Bonilla’s assist was his team-leading eighth helper of the season.
The Giants would take a 2-0 lead into halftime as Heter III scored with just four seconds remaining in the opening stanza.
The senior stole a clearing attempt by the Cyclones following a late restart for the hosts and ripping a 30-yard shot into a vacant net to give Keystone the two-goal edge. Heter’s tally was his third of the season.
The hosts extended their lead to 3-0 in the 56th minute as Thiam headed in a cross by freshman James Johnson from the right flank.
Thiam’s tally was his fifth of the fall while Johnson’s assist marked the first point of his collegiate career.
Centenary got on the board in the 61st minute when Josh Weiss ripped a shot just inside the left post from 25 yards out to make it a 3-1 game, but Keystone was able to hold the Cyclones off the rest of the way to punch their ticket to their first-ever CSAC title match.
Heintz finished the night with three saves to earn his fifth victory of the season while Warne made a game-high six stops for Centenary.
Keystone held a 19-17 edge in shots for the game including a 9-4 lead in shots on goal. The Cyclones had an 8-7 edge in corner kick opportunities.
Thursday’s victory extended Keystone’s winning streak to seven games, the most since a 10-game streak in 2002.