RINDGE, N.H. – No. 2 Franklin Pierce opened NCAA tournament play on Saturday with a 5-0 win against St. Thomas Aquinas in the second round at Sodexo Field in Rindge. The Ravens, seeded No. 1 in Super Region 1, improved to 20-0-1 on the season, while the fifth-seeded Spartans concluded their campaign at 11-4-4.
The win was Franklin Pierce’s 20th of the season which set a program record for victories in a single season, moving ahead of the 1991 squad which won 19 games on the way to a berth in the national semifinals that year.
Franklin Pierce advanced to the quarterfinals of this year’s NCAA tournament, which will be held at 7 p.m. next Saturday in Sodexo Field. The Ravens will play host to the winner of Sunday’s second-round match between second-seeded Southern New Hampshire and third-seeded C.W. Post. Those two teams will play at 1 p.m. at Larkin Field in Manchester, N.H. Franklin Pierce will be making its second consecutive appearance in the national quarterfinals with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Saturday night belonged to senior midfielder Paul Latif, who logged an amazing six points, including a pair of goals and two assists.
The Ravens and Latif took control of Saturday night’s match right from the start as he scored in the fourth minute off of a free kick attempt to make it 1-0. The goal was Latif’s fourth of the season and would prove to be the match-winner, which was also his fourth in that category.
Junior midfielder Greg Giguere put Franklin Pierce up by two goals in the 43rd minute when he took a nice through ball from senior back Tom Reilly dribbled down the left side of the box and fired off a shot that beat the STAC goalkeeper to the lower right corner of the net. Giguere tallied his fifth goal of the season, while Reilly earned an assist on the play for his first helper of the campaign.
Those two first-half goals were just a sign of things to come in the second half as the Ravens struck home three more in the frame to cap the scoring and put the finishing touches on a victory.
Latif scored, again, in the 63rd minute, this time coming off a nice drive to the box where he dribbled around a defender and sent a shot to the lower right corner of the net for his fifth of the year.
He had a hand in the final two markers, including sending a crossing pass to the front of the goal in the 79th minute, which sophomore Gareth Dudney (North Andover, Mass.) was able to get a foot on to redirect the shot into the upper right corner for his second tally of the year.
The final goal of the match, in the 84th minute, came via the same fashion as Latif sent another crossing pass to the same area in front of the goal, where junior William Holland (Londonderry, N.H.) was able to chip in the feed to the lower left corner for his first tally of the season.
Franklin Pierce also turned in an outstanding defensive performance in the match by limiting the Spartans to just two shots (one in each half). The Ravens were able to fire off 14 shots, including putting 10 on goal. Latif led the way with four shots. Franklin Pierce senior goalkeeper Vinny Papageorgiou needed to make just one save to earn the shutout win (his 12th of the season and fourth in a row) to run his record to 20-0-1.
STAC keeper Andrew Tartara started in goal and made four saves despite suffering the loss to fall to 11-4-4 on the year. William Miller and Edgar Barragan each recorded a shot for the Spartans.