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College soccer: SLU men wallop Wheaton, advance to Sweet 16

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CANTON — This was the kind of game where even the usually tense St. Lawrence University coach Bob Durocher could relax.

The Saints men’s soccer team stunned Wheaton (Mass.) with an 8-0 rout Sunday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament at Sandy MacAllaster Field.

SLU (17-2-2 overall), which enjoyed a 5-0 halftime lead, advances to the Sweet 16, where it will face No. 5 Amherst, likely in Massachusetts, next weekend.

“I was very surprised,” Durocher said of the big edge. “I thought our guys were very focused going into the game today, but it’s been very tough for us to score goals all year, so to get five in a half was very unexpected.

“I think we used the field well,” he added. “I think the guys made a lot of good runs off the ball. We had good execution on our corner-kick plays and once you get rolling like that, you just want to keep going.”

SLU’s performance was so dominating that Saints goalie Aaron Costello did not even have to make a save while recording the shutout. The Saints outshot Wheaton 24-4, including a 12-1 edge in the first half. SLU also enjoyed a 5-0 edge in corner kicks.

“It was a perfect storm, St. Lawrence was fantastic,” Wheaton coach Matt Cushing said. “They were better than us everywhere, all over the field. We had no answers for them. When you give up a goal six minutes in, it’s tough to come back. It just kind of wasn’t your day. I thought they were more athletic, more competitive, tougher, stronger.”

Just like it did Saturday, SLU struck early on Sunday when senior captain Andrew Bednarsky scored just 5 minutes, 45 seconds into the game. Passes from Morgan Smith and Praveen Balakumaran set up Bednarsky’s goal.

SLU upped the lead to 2-0 in the 15th minute on another goal from Bednarsky, this one coming when he scored on a corner kick from Smith to the back post.

“It lets us relax a bit and it gives us the momentum going in,” Bednarsky said. “It’s been hard to get those goals, so once we got those it gave us a little bit of relief. Once we got those we had to keep pressing on, because we knew the game wasn’t over. Our boys kept going and pushing through, and the third, fourth and fifth came right after that. We just beat a team 8-0, that helps us get that confidence to keep going and keep scoring. It really builds up the confidence, pushing forward in the NCAA Tournament.”

Ryan Grant, who became the second Saint to get a hat trick in the tournament, started that with his first goal of the game in the 36th minute on another play that began with a corner kick. Rob Brandell and Noah Bunton assisted on the goal.

Brandell then scored off a pass from Bunton in the 39th minute and Bunton picked up his first goal of the season off a pass from Mark Provost in the 43rd minute.

In 20 games before Sunday the Saints scored nine goals in the first half, but added five to that list against Wheaton (17-6).

SLU didn’t score again until the 74th minute when Grant scored the first of two goals just 30 seconds apart to make it 7-0. The first goal was unassisted and Christian Barral-Arteta assisted on the second.

“To get three goals today was a good confidence-booster, I think for everyone that scored today,” Grant said. “I was hungry. On the last goal Christian made a selfless play and gave it to me, so I was just grateful.”

The 15th-ranked Saints will face Amherst in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the current seniors where freshmen. Amherst edged SLU 3-2 in Canton in that contest.

“That’s going to be very difficult, but at least we know something about them,” Durocher said. “We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year and see what happens.”


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