PHILADELPHIA – A wild ending on Sweeney Field saw the Saint Joseph's men's soccer squad draw with Saint Louis, 3-3, in the Atlantic 10 regular-season home finale on Wednesday evening.
With all other matches completed, the Hawks found themselves entering the first overtime needing a goal for the win, and a win to take the eighth and final spot in the A-10's postseason field.
With 12 seconds remaining in the second overtime, sophomore midfielder Alvin Dahn launched a ball in toward goal, and senior defender Eddie McCusker appeared to have scored the match-winner to an eruption of cheers from the Sweeney Field stands. However, after discussing the play, the officials disallowed the goal and instead called an SJU foul, for roughing SLU goalkeeper Seth Stiebel.
The draw put SJU into a three-way tie with UMass and St. Bonaventure for the final spot in the A-10 postseason field, and UMass won the tiebreaker with what would come down to its win over George Mason vs. Saint Joseph's loss to George Mason.
"It's a shame, because they put so much effort into it," said head coach Don D'Ambra after the heartbreaking result. "We battled back. And what a game. We had to win to advance, and we scored a goal in OT, and the referees called it back. Just to see the resilency of this group. To have your captain put a goal in to win it, it was gut-wrenching to see them turn it back and for us to let the season slip away."
The Hawks close the 2018 season with eight wins, the most in program history since 2003 (8), and the most in head coach Don D'Ambra's nine-year tenure. Saint Joseph's also finishes the 2018 season with six wins at home, the most in program history since 2003 (6), and turns in the program's first unbeaten home season since the 70s.
The draw also marks the first time in program history that SJU did not fall to SLU, improving to 0-9-1 all-time against the Billikens.
"I'm really proud of the season we had," added D'Ambra. "There were a lot of positives from it, but we didn't advance to the A-10 playoffs, which has been the goal for all of us. So, we fell short of that ultimate goal. It was a bittersweet year."
Saint Louis' John Klein scored his first of two on the night in the 36th minute, as he gained a bit of room and fired off a complete blast from just outside the top-right part of the box; Klein hit the the left upper-90 to put the Billikens on the board, 1-0, at the 35:53 mark, and SLU would keep that edge into the halftime break.
The Hawks wouldn't waste any time coming out of the halftime break as junior forward Leon Maric scored (50') on a feed from Dahn, initiated by sophomore midfielder Ritchie Barry. Running up the right wing, Barry cut a pass inside to Dahn, who was fighting for positioning along the goal line. Dahn found Maric, who was in the right place at the right time. Maric struck with his right foot and sent his shot past a diving Stiebel for the equalizer.
Barry and Dahn teamed up just moments later (54') as Dahn shook off two defenders and found Barry with a perfect pass in the middle of the box; Barry scored on a phenomenal bicycle kick (SportsCenter Top 10-caliber) that sent the Sweeney Field stands into massive roars.
However, Saint Louis scored twice in the 56th minute, in a 27-second span, as SLU's Chase Niece converted a header off a free kick and Klein turned in another crafty score to help the Billikens regain the lead, 3-2.
The Hawks kept battling, and it finally came to fruition in the 74th minute as sophomore defender Daniel Morales juked his defender and, with a bit of room, put a brilliant through ball into the box for freshman forward Frantz Pierrot's late-match equalizer.
Freshman goalkeeper Joseph Boehm (8-7-3, 2-3-3 A-10) made five saves in the full-match effort while, for the final time in his collegiate career, McCusker anchored the back line in the full 110:00.
McCusker and senior midfielder Derek MacKinnon, who played his second-highest number of minutes this season (86), earned starts in their final collegiate matches while senior midfielder Lou Vilotti played a season-high 54 minutes off the bench and senior midfielder Kyle Lochbihler added 12. The Hawks honored McCusker, MacKinnon, Vilotti, Lochbihler, senior defender Ryan Beebe, and senior midfielder Kyle Millar in a pre-match ceremony for their dedication and commitment to the men's soccer program over their careers.
MATCH NOTES: With his goal in the 50th minute, Maric closes his first season on Hawk Hill with 12 to tie for fifth, with John Sharp (1994), on SJU's all-time list for single-season goals... With his ninth and 10th assists in the 50th and 54th minutes, Dahn moved from a tie for second (with current head coach Don D'Ambra) to a tie for first, with John McIntyre (1993), on SJU's all-time list for single-season assists... Maric (25 points), Dahn (24 points), and Barry (23 points) close the season ranked seventh, tied for eighth, and tied for 10th, respectively, in single-season points on Hawk Hill.