New England Soccer Today

UConn Wins in OT, Advances to NCAA Q’finals

STORRS, Conn. – Nick Zuniga’s overtime strike sent Connecticut to a 2-1 win over New Mexico at Morrone Stadium on Sunday.

Zuniga scored when Carlos Alvarez brought down a longball and played it central to the Huskies’ forward, who raced through the Lobos’ defense and pushed it through to send the Huskies to the NCAA Quarterfinals.

“At the moment, what was going through my mind was to just put it in the goal because I had enough opportunities that game, I’m just glad I got that one,” said Zuniga after the game. “My heart is still pounding right now.”

Connecticut will host Creighton on Sunday, Dec. 2 in their quarterfinal match at Morrone Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1pm.

Devon Sandoval opened the scoring in the 32nd minute to give the thirteen-seed Lobos a surprising lead going into the interval. The Huskies responded in the 76th minute from Mamadou Diouf to send it to overtime.

The Lobos went on the attack right from the first chirp, with Sandoval, Blake Smith and Michael Calderone leading the way. While early chances were found, the Lobos has nothing to show for it until after the half hour.

Calderone raced down the left, cut right, then fired a quick shot that Blake denied. But Sandoval pounced on the rebound and put it through to give the Lobos the lead.

The Huskies nearly leveled it before halftime when Sean Weir put it on front of Carlos Alverez in front of frame. The shot from Alvarez veered away from frame in the 40th minute.

“There are years where we’ve played teams off the field and we went home,” said Connecticut head coach Ray Reid after the game. “I’m tired of reading on Monday morning that it’s a strange game and that it’s not a fair game with us being on the wrong end of it.”

After reasserting themselves in the second half, the Huskies found paydirt with under 15 minutes to play. Max Wasserman sent it in front of frame, where it was initially headed by Weir toward Diouff, who leveled it from close range.

“I saw the ball play to the side and I go to the side of the box,” said Diouf after the game. “Coach was saying, ‘you are going to have rebound today. You are gonna get a rebound goal.’ So when I saw the cross, I just go like this and flick it in. It was right there and I just had to score.”

The Lobos could’ve avoided overtime when Smith crossed into the six, where it was quickly collected by Ben McKendry in front of an open net. However, McKendry whiffed on his second touch and the ball rolled harmlessly outside of the near post in the 88th minute.

“We had a lot of chances to win the game, so it was a tough way to end the season,” said New Mexico head coach Jeremy Fishbein after game. “But we lost to a good, proud team that was committed to playing soccer.”

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