EVANS, Ga. – On a team made up primarily of international players from far away, goalkeeper Matt DiCerbo stood out as the only truly home-grown product playing for the Lynn Fighting Knights who won the NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer National Championship on Saturday.
DiCerbo said he thought about that just before taking the field for Saturday’s 3-2 victory against Saginaw Valley State at Blanchard Woods Park.
“I almost was in tears before we came out onto the field,” DiCerbo said. “I grew up obviously watching [the Lynn team] play. I watched the season when they won it in 2003. I’m still in contact with all those guys, and they’ve supported me and this team the entire way.”
DiCerbo was barely a teenager when he watched as Lynn won that 2003 national title. The Fighting Knights returned to the NCAA Final Four in 2005, but lost in the semifinals. And last year, with DiCerbo in goal, they lost to Fort Lewis in overtime in the national championship game.
“I can’t even explain what this means to me,” DiCerbo said. “Losing last year in the final was absolutely devastating to me and the entire team. I really think that’s what motivated us this year, to get back here and get the job done this year. It was a dream for so long, and it just came true – so I’m obviously ecstatic about it.”
DiCerbo, a native of Boca Raton, Fla, was the only Florida native on the 25-man Lynn roster, and one of only five players on the roster who are not from another country. He began his collegiate career in 2008 at Lenior-Rhyne College in North Carolina before transferring back home to Lynn, which is located in Boca Raton.
“We’ve had Matt for four years now. We’ve seen Matt develop immensely in his ability to lead the defense and organize our back line,” Lynn coach John Rootes said. “He’s kept us in a lot of games this season that we may have lost with a goalkeeper who wasn’t as good.”
DiCerbo entered the Final Four with the second-lowest goals-against-average in the nation. His 0.41 GAA also was the third-lowest in school history, and his 21 career shutouts are the fifth-most at Lynn. He was the goalkeeper of record in all but one of 19-3-1 Lynn’s games this season.
He had a shutout going for much of Saturday’s championship game, but had to withstand a furious rally by Saginaw Valley State over the final 20 minutes. DiCerbo credited his teammates with playing outstanding defense in front of him, making his job easier.
|2012 DII CHAMPIONSHIP|
Championship: Lynn 3, Saginaw Valley 2
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Semis: Lynn 4, Mercyhurst 1
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Semis: Saginaw Valley 2, Simon Fraser 1
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“Our back four is very organized. They did a great job all season,” DiCerbo said. “Obviously Johnny and [A.B. Magnusson] and Martin [Wehlert] were all over the place [Saturday]. Then we had a variety of guys playing on the left side and doing the job there. Even [forwards] Jack [Winter] and Julian [Harder] did a good job of tracking back and stealing balls.
“I have to hand it to [Saginaw Valley State]. They never quit and they never backed off. With 20 minutes to go and down three-nil, I think most teams would have. They put us under immense pressure and got themselves a couple of goals. It may not have been pretty, but we were able to hang on and that’s all that matters for us.”
Rootes said the Fighting Knights could not have enjoyed the success they had during the past two seasons without DiCerbo.
“Last year he got us to the [national semifinals] with his great play on penalty kicks. We won several games that way on our way to the [national semifinals],” Rootes said. “So he was good last year, but he was better this year.
“He’s very, very strong and athletic and just had a great year. I’m so proud of him and how far he’s come from the first day we got him to now. He’s gotten to the pinnacle of the sport, and that’s something to be very proud of.”