EVANS, Ga. – Southern New Hampshire got two goals in the first half and made them stand up, and senior keeper Dom DiMaggio made several key saves in the second half as the Penmen downed Rockhurst 2-1 in the semifinals of the NCAA championship on Thursday evening at Blanchard Woods Park. The Penmen, who are now unbeaten in their past 22 games (21-0-1), improve to 21-1-1 and will play for the second national championship in program history on Saturday. The Hawks end their season 17-4-3.
"We definitely escaped a lot of pressure in the second half. Our guys played their hearts out in terms of running and working for another and making special defensive plays," Southern New Hampshire coach Marc Hubbard said. "It's been a while since we've been under immense pressure, and I am really glad how the boys responded in the second half and grinded it out."
Southern New Hampshire got a pair of goals in the first half from unlikely sources with defenders Callum Williams and Jonathan Lupinelli scoring to give the Penmen a 2-0 lead. Williams notched his second goal of the season in the 27th minute when he fired home a shot from 15 yards following a scramble in front of the Rockhurst goal. Lupinelli, a sophomore, notched his first collegiate goal at the 41:04 mark when he took a give-and-go from senior Brian Francolini, and his left-footed shot from 12 yards bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and in.
Rockhurst cut the lead to 2-1 just 43 seconds later. After the Penmen were whistled for a foul in their own end, Mark Magee sent a long free kick into the box and following a scramble in front of the net, Paolo Scoppola knocked the ball home for his fourth goal of the season.
DiMaggio was the story of the second half as he made six saves during the final 45 minutes as the Hawks outshot the Penmen 12-7. All six of his saves came in the final 35:04, with five coming in the game's final 15 minutes. Rockhurst's best chances to score came around the 75-minute mark on bids by Magee and Nick McDonald, but DiMaggio made sliding saves on both. McDonald and Magee again had back-to-back shots on target around the 83rd minute, but DiMaggio was up to the task yet again.
"Dom DiMaggio deserves a lot of credit for our victory tonight," Hubbard said. "He's been feeling a little bit under the weather, and being able to get through that and lead the team like he did tonight. We needed to rely on him tonight and he was there for us."
Rockhurst held a 16-14 shot advantage for the contest, with Hawk keeper Ryan Bass making six stops. Southern New Hampshire had a 5-2 advantage on corner kicks in the game.
Southern New Hampshire is making its third national championship game appearance in program history. It captured the 1989 Division II national championship and finished as runner-up in 2002.