Back to the Future! Men’s Soccer Making Return Trip to NCAA National Championship
Evans, Ga. – A goal 36 seconds into the match set the tone for an offensive day as Lynn University’s men’s soccer team defeated Mercyhurst 4-1 to advance to its second consecutive NCAA Division II National Championship. Julian Halder knocked in the Fighting Knights two first-half goals while Jack Winter and Anthony Desperito found the back of the net in the second-half.
Lynn improves to 18-3-1 on the season and will play for its fourth national title. The Blue & White previously won crowns in 1987, 1991 and 2003. They have played in an astounding total of 11 championship matches in their history.
Looking to put the pressure on Mercyhurst (17-6-1) early on, the Fighting Knights did just that with a perfect ball by Heiko Eberhardt into the Lakers box. Halder took care of the rest, fighting off two defenders to get a shot off with his left foot past keeper Mikko Sarkkinen to put LU on top 1-0.
Despite a 30 minute gap in scoring, the Fighting Knights dominated the pace of play and kept the Lakers off their game. It was Halder again in the 32 minute of play, this time heading in a ball at the left post from a cross by Winter for his team-leading 11th goal.
With the game slipping away, Mercyhurst was forced to gamble with its back line by attempting to trap the LU. The Lakers strategy backfired as the Fighting Knights were able to exploit the open space for two more scores.
Winter was the first to break free, blowing past his defender off a through ball by Jake Furman. Sarkkinen left his line quickly to make the save but Winter curled his shot to the top right shelf for his eighth goal of the year.
Desperito put the cherry on top of a fantastic offensive effort with a goal in the 81st minute. The junior forward took advantage of his speed to blaze past the Mercyhurst defense and chip a shot over the keeper before sliding in jubilation as he was mobbed by his teammates.
Lakers leading scorer Alex Manea was held in check all of the match as the LU defensive unit of Jason Sangha, AB Magnusson, Michael Kutscher and James Aldred held him without a shot attempt. Mercyhurst was able to get on the board with eight minutes to play to make it a 4-1 final.
Lynn outshot Mercyhurst 17-5 but the Lakers held the 5-4 advantage in corner kicks. Sarkkinen tallied five saves while Matt DiCerbo notched two stops.
The Fighting Knights face the winner of Simon Fraser/Saginaw Valley State on Saturday, December 1, at noon. Fans can watch the action live at LynnFightingKnights.com or NCAA.com and receive in-game tweets by following @LUKnights on Twitter and Instagram.