NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University men's soccer team advanced to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament semifinals for the 15th straight season with a 2-1 victory over the Univ. of St. Joseph (Conn.) on Friday evening at Sabine Field.
Freshman Bienfait Badibanga (Burlington, Vt.) scored his team-leading 11th goal of the season in the 67th minute with a world-class strike off an assist from Bryce Sullenger (Gaithersburg, Md.) for what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
Sullenger sent a crossing pass in from the right wing that Badibanga tapped up with his right foot and then side volleyed the ball into the back left corner of the net without the ball touching the ground for the goal of the year.
No. 3-seed Norwich (11-2-4) will now travel to No. 2 Johnson & Wales for the second straight season for a GNAC semifinal matchup on Tuesday. The two teams will meet for the fourth straight year in the GNAC Semifinals.
Univ. of St. Joseph (8-5-2) wouldn't go down without a fight though as the Blue Jays cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 76th minute with a goal off a set piece by Hayden Burbank. Burbank buried the ball into the left corner of the net after Domeniko Skrelja's free kick service from 45 yards out was flicked on by Castro to a wide open Burbank crashing at the left post.
Norwich went up 1-0 in the 15th minute with Alex Brannan (Oneonta, N.Y.) scoring his second goal of the year with a strike from 30 yards out that clipped the bottom of the cross bar and bounced over the line for the first goal of the game. Dashiell Vermilya (Montpelier, Vt.) picked up the assist on the goal after dishing a pass over to Brannan before he ripped the shot on goal.
Senior goalkeeper Brendan Germano (Monroe Township, N.J.) made three saves to improve to 11-2-4 on the season. Anes Gadun made seven saves for USJ in the loss.
Top-seeded and two-time defending GNAC champion Saint Joseph's (Maine) will meet Colby-Sawyer in the other semifinal on Tuesday. The two semifinal winners will meet in the championship at the highest remaining seed on Saturday, Nov. 3.