Men’s Soccer: #3 Norwich at #1 St. Joseph’s (Maine) – GNAC Championship Preview

Men's soccer GNAC championship preview

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University men's soccer team continues its quest for its fifth Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship on Saturday at 1 p.m. when it travels to No. 1-seed Saint Joseph's (Maine) for a rematch of the 2016 title game.   

The Cadets (11-3-5, 6-0-4 GNAC) earned the No. 3 seed for the GNAC Tournament after finishing unbeaten in league play for the second year in a row and third time in 10 seasons. NU extended its streak to 14 straight years of reaching at least the GNAC semifinal round with a 2-0 win over Emmanuel in the quarterfinals. The Cadets then upset No. 2-seed Johnson & Wales, 2-1 in the semifinals on Wednesday to advance to their fifth GNAC title game in the last seven years. 

Norwich is unbeaten in its last 24 games vs. GNAC opponents, compiling a 17-0-7 record. The Cadets are also riding a 14-game unbeaten streak into Saturday with a 9-0-5 record over that span. 

Saint Joseph's (Maine) earned the top seed for the second straight season and comes into Saturday as the defending GNAC champions. The Monks haven't lost a game in 2017, compiling an impressive 17-0-1 record to date. SJC beat No. 8-seed Suffolk 1-0 in the quarterfinals and then followed up with a dominant 6-0 win over No. 5-seed Regis in the semifinals on Wednesday afternoon. 

The game will live video streamed on https://portal.stretchinternet.com/sjme/ for those that are unable to attend. 

EARLIER THIS SEASON: Norwich is the only team to not lose to Saint Joseph's (Maine) this season, which includes a 1-0 win over perennial NESCAC powerhouse Bowdoin College. The two teams played to their third consecutive 110-minute scoreless tie on Sept. 16 at Saint Joseph's (Maine) in the regular season meeting. The Monks outshot the Cadets 17-11 in the game. The two teams have held each other scoreless for 354 straight minutes. The last goal was by Norwich's Alec Brigante in the 66th minute of a 3-1 win for Saint Joseph's on Oct. 24, 2015.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Norwich and Saint Joseph's (Maine) will meet for the 16th time in the two program's histories on Saturday. The Monks hold a 7-4-4 advantage in the all-time series, including a 5-1-3 record over the last nine games. NU has only beat Saint Joseph's (Maine) once in Standish, coming in the two team's first-ever meeting in 2007, by a score of 4-0. In every meeting prior to this year's regular-season matchup, Saint Joseph's (Maine) hosted Norwich on its old grass Westerlea Way Field. This season, the Monks debuted their new SJC Athletics Complex turf field.   

SAINT JOSEPH'S (MAINE) SCOUTING REPORT: The No. 19 nationally-ranked Monks have been a powerhouse on both sides of the field all season. SJC leads the GNAC with 64 goals, averaging 3.56 goals for per game. They also have the simply incredible mark of not allowing a single goal the entire season so far through 18 games. Saint Joseph's set a new NCAA record (all three levels) for most shutouts in a season with its 6-0 semifinal win over Regis. 

Saint Joseph's 6-foot-7 junior goalkeeper Blake Mullen also extended his consecutive shutout minute streak to 1,505 minutes and 36 seconds, which also counts as the longest stretch without yielding a goal in the history of NCAA Men's Soccer. Mullen has made 42 saves this season. 

The Monks also feature the GNAC's top scorer in junior Brett Mattos, who has 19 goals and nine assists for 47 points to rank fourth nationally in all of Division III for total points this season. 

Mitchell Duncan has seven goals and five assists for 19 points, while Trevor Lopes has eight goals and two assists for 18 points. Cody Elliott has two goals and a team-leading 13 assists for 17 points. His 13 assists rank tied for fifth in all of Division III. Noah Elmore (5-6-16) and Jesse Ramirez (6-3-15) round out the top six scorers for the Monks. 

NORWICH SCOUTING REPORT: Norwich ranks second in the GNAC with 47 goals and a 2.47 goals per game average. The Cadets are third in goals against average with a 0.99 average and just 20 goals against this season. 

Norwich is led offensively by sophomore Luke Gleadle (Gilbert, Ariz.), who has a team-leading 11 goals and two assists for 24 points this season. Senior Camilo Estrada (Pawtucket, R.I.) has six goals and 10 assists, to rank among the nation's leaders in assists. 

Sophomore Carlos Guerra (Mission, Texas) has five goals and four assists for 14 points, while senior Ransford Ahenkora (Bronx, N.Y.) has five goals and two assists for 12 points. Freshman Staige Davis (Shelburne, Vt.) rounds out the top-five scorers with four goals and three assists for 11 points. Senior captain Colin Lozito (Wilmington, Vt.) has four goas and three assists for 11 points as well. 

In goal, junior Brendan Germano (Monroe Township, N.J.) has played and started in all 19 games. He has compiled an 11-3-5 record, .820 save percentage and a 1.03 goals against average. He has six shutouts this season as well. 

WHAT'S AT STAKE: The winner of Saturday's match will earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, which begins Nov. 11 and 12. Saint Joseph's (Maine) is looking for its fourth GNAC Tournament title after winning last year, as well as in 2009 and 2011. Norwich is looking for its fifth title after winning GNAC titles in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2008.