ERIE, Pa. – The Penn State Behrend men's soccer defeated Franciscan 4-1 in the AMCC (Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference) semifinal matchup on Wednesday afternoon, advancing to their 11th straight conference championship game.
The Lions (15-4) will be making their 19th finals appearance in the 21 years history of the conference thanks to three second-half goals.
Aaron Harris (Washington, PA/McGuffey) scored the only goal of the first half for the Lions. Nick McKee (Bridgeville, PA/South Fayette) gathered the ball 25 yards out from net and chipped a pass in between the two Baron center defenders to find Harris running onto the ball. Once Harris saw goalkeeper Thomas Dosedel commit to make the save, he tucked it in the back of the net to give the Lions a 1-0 lead 12:37 in.
The Lions wasted no time creating effective scoring chances throughout the second half. Five minutes in, Matt Dziadosz (Leechburg, PA/Kiski Area) gave Behrend the first scoring chance of the second after being awarded a free-kick opportunity 30 yards out from goal. He stepped up and hit a laser at the net, but the ball barely went high of the goal post. Less than a minute later, Harris collected the ball and slotted a through-ball to Dziadosz for a break-away opportunity. He took advantage of his chance and slipped the ball in the corner of the net, giving Behrend a 2-0 lead.
Two minutes later, junior Dakota Lange (Apollo, PA/Kiski Area) extended the lead to three after finding an opening behind the Franciscan defense. Dziadosz received the ball at midfield and played a long diagonal, splitting the Baron defenders that Lange was running onto. Once he caught up the ball, he had no problem burying his shot in the corner of the goal.
Andrew Mastovich (Murrysville, PA/Franklin Regional) tried to extend the lead off of a Dziadosz corner kick. The ball was crossed in, and Mastovich muscled his way far post to find the ball with his head, but the header rang the post.
The fourth goal came in the 73th minute when Cole Ferguson (Mars, PA/Mars) netted a shot near post. Zhafar Dzhabarov (Erie, PA/Central) dribbled the ball into the 18-yard box and played a square pass to the oncoming Ferguson for a one-time finish.
Franciscan got on the board late in the game when JP Bobak put high pressure on the Lions' defense. Bobak was able to steal the ball from the defense and slotted a shot past goalkeeper Chris Ralph (Murrysville, PA/Franklin Regional) to avoid the shutout for a second time this season.
The Lions defense, led by Josh Kolarac (Imperial, PA/West Allegheny), fought the entire match to hold the AMCC leading goal scorer, Leo Herrmann, to only register one shot in the match. Ralph tallied three saves in the game and notched his 12th win of the season.
Behrend will host the No. 3 seed Medaille in the AMCC title game this Saturday at 1 p.m. This matchup marks the fourth time in five years these two teams will battle against each other in the title game.