STORRS, Conn., Nov. 27, 2011 - The 24th-ranked James Madison men's soccer team saw its season come to an end Sunday afternoon, as the Dukes lost 3-0 to No. 5 Connecticut in NCAA round of 16 action at Morrone Stadium.
The Dukes, seeded No. 14 in the 48-team tournament, finished the year with a 13-5-2 record. The No. 3 seeded Huskies improved their record to 19-3-2 and remained unbeaten at home with a 12-0-1 record.
The game was played in front of a crowd of 4,983, just under capacity at the 5,100-seat Morrone Stadium.
UConn took a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute on a breakaway goal by junior Carlos Alvarez. Senior Tony Cascio delivered a pass down the right side to Alvarez, who dribbled into the box and beat redshirt senior goalkeeper Justin Epperson (Herndon, Va./Oakton) one-on-one with a shot from eight yards to the upper part of the far corner.
In the second half the Huskies scored twice in a span of two minutes to take a commanding 3-0 lead.
First, a penalty kick was assessed when sophomore Mamadou Diouf was taken down by a JMU defender in the penalty box. Diouf took the PK, but Epperson stopped the shot. However, Diouf pounced on the rebound and scored at the 62:16 mark.
Just 2:02 later Cascio got the ball on a pass from Alvarez and hit a shot from the left side of the box into the right side of the goal for the Huskies' third goal of the day.
UConn out-shot the Dukes 16-5, and Epperson finished with four saves. JMU freshman Nick Njuki (Gaithersburg, Md./Quince Orchard) also made a defensive save in the late stages of the game on a ball chipped over Epperson by freshman Allando Matheson in the waning minutes.
Post-Game News Conference.
JMU head coach Tom Martin:
"It was nice to see (former UConn coach) Joseph J. (Morrone) today. We got to see him before the game. The only reason I bring it up is because this place is special for soccer. Obviously we didn't get the result we wanted today but if we're gonna go out, I guess this is a good place to go out because of all the history and heritage that this place holds. On a serious note, it was good to see Coach Morrone today and have a couple of words with him."
Q: It looked like you were trying to get Patrick Innes more involved in the second half and had a good 15 minutes?
A: "We did. We had a good 15 minutes then we shot ourselves in the foot. We gave up a penalty kick. We had a good scouting report. (Goalkeeper) Justin (Epperson) did everything he could. We knew who was taking it and where he was going. He makes a good save but 10 other guys fell asleep. Two guys were wide awake for UConn and followed it in. That took all the momentum out of it.
You hit the nail on the head. We started the second half trying to be a little more direct, play a bit quicker through the midfield. We had a hard time getting penetration. Any time we had as much of the ball as we had at certain times, we'd always make a square pass or a negative pass and give UConn time to get behind the ball. I think at halftime we had one shot and that might be generous. The first 10 or 15 minutes we had some good chances but the penalty kick.... It's very difficult at this stage of the tournament to come back from down two goals. I think we showed our youth there and let ourselves down a bit. Giving up that goal and then lost it for about five or 10 minutes later.
"I'm proud of the season we had. We had a very good team, a team that people predicted to be eighth in the league. We ended up winning the league and getting this far. Yeah it wasn't our best effort but I'll give a lot of that credit to UConn."
James Madison Goalkeeper Justin Epperson
Q: You made a couple really big stops in the first 15 minutes. What did you see on those two breakaways?
A: "I saw them slipping through and I just tried my best to position myself and cut the angle down. Just tried to read the ball."