The top two seeds advanced to meet on Sunday for a high noon showdown to determine the American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) men's soccer tournament championship, as top-seed Wisconsin-Whitewater rushed past fourth-seeded Finlandia, and second-seeded UC Santa Cruz tipped third-seeded and tournament host Pine Manor in overtime, in a pair of semifinal contests played Saturday on the campus of Presentation of Mary Academy in Hudson, N.H.
(1) Wisconsin-Whitewater 7, (4) Finlandia 2
In Saturday's opener, seven different goal-scorers found the twine and the Warhawks (15-4-1) broke open a close contest with five second half goals to advance.
UWW, which had defeated the Lions (4-15-1) back on October 6th (2-0), piled up a 44-4 total shots advantage (29-3 SOG) but the Lions used some timely defensive play coupled with strong goalkeeping to hold serve through most of the opening stanza.
Hozai Cabellos had put the Warhawks in front converting a penalty kick after a hard foul in the 16th minute, while Finlandia responded in the 38th when Maxx Knisley redirected Chelan Gonzalez's feed to the right corner to tie it.
But UWW, which won its third straight, took the lead for good 1:50 later on a Kortu Josiah conversion to send the top-seed into the half up 2-1, and the Warhawks depth eventually wore the Lions down in the second. The decisive stretch came with four goals coming between the 60th and 68th minutes.
Steven Wright picked up a pair of assists for the winners.
Despite the loss, Finlandia goalkeeper Noah Raisenan was terrific, posting 22 saves including a half dozen of the remarkable diving goal-saving variety.
Starter Jake King, Alex Heath and Duncan Morgan combined for one total save in net for UWW.
(2) UC Santa Cruz 2, (3) Pine Manor 1 (OT)
Jake Rhodes redirected Will Barba's pass up the middle 4:11 into overtime, sending the Banana Slugs (8-7-3) into Sunday's final, ending an entertaining and hotly contested matchup in Saturday's second semifinal.
UCSC, now 3-1-1 over its last five, took the lead off a nifty Barba header which redirected Keith McCarty's corner kick in the 54th minute to give the Slugs a 1-0 lead.
The Gators (12-3-2) answered just under three minutes later when Andree Hernandez-Garcia stole an inadvertent defensive pass and went in on a partial breakaway going low left side to knot things at one.
UCSC finished with decisive advantages in total shots (20-10), shots on goal (13-5) and edged PMC on corners (5-4) but the game remained a relative stalemate due to a clash between PMC's speed and physical style, against a UCSC defense that clamped down in the middle, often forcing the Gators to the outside, combined with a strong midfield game.
Angel Pina was solid for Pine Manor, turning aside 11 shots including a terrific pair in the second half, while Andrew Pimentel posted four saves for the Slugs.