The No. 7 Stevens men's soccer team completed its dominance of the Empire 8 Conference with a 3-2 shootout victory over Ithaca College in the Empire 8 Championship Match on Sunday. It is the sixth-straight Empire 8 crown for the program, and ninth-straight overall conference title. Officially, the game is recorded as a tie and the Ducks and Bombers will share the 2012 Empire 8 Championship.
With the result, the Ducks are guaranteed to make their 12th-straight NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Championship appearance. Stevens dominated the Empire 8 Conference this season, outscoring its league rivals 19-2. Sunday also marked the seventh-consecutive shutout posted by goalkeeper Paul Killian and the Ducks' defense.
Over the first 25 minutes the Ducks dominated play, outshooting the Bombers 8-3 and ending that run with Zach Adler's shot that grazed the crossbar. Six of Stevens' eight shots were on goal – not including Alder's which ultimately did not require an Ithaca save.
The two sides played to a scoreless tie in the first half. Stevens was the aggressor in every sense of the word; the Ducks controlled possession, held a 9-3 lead in shots, a 4-3 advantage in corner kicks and had committed six fouls to Ithaca's two.
As the second period began, it became clear the Bombers were angling for a scoreless tie, as Ithaca kept eight or nine men back even when the ball was deep in the Stevens zone and did not take a shot until the 86th minute.
Stephen Dunbar had a good run in the 69th minute in what may have been the Ducks' best chance until that point, and two minutes later Harrison Kane ripped a shot that clanged off the crossbar as the Ducks stepped up the pressure.
At 78:07 Dunbar fired a shot at point-blank range but the Ithaca keeper came up with the diving save as the tilt became even more tense and went to overtime scoreless. Stevens led 14-4 in shots and put eight shots on goal to the Bombers' two at the end of regulation.
In the first overtime, both sides traded close free kick opportunities. Stevens' shot sailed high, but Killian dove for the save on Ithaca's volley. The ball was loose in the box but the defense was able to clear it away and parry the first truly dangerous Bomber attack. Ithaca continued to put pressure on Stevens in the first OT but Killian stood strong in the goal. Ithaca outshot the Ducks 4-1 in the initial overtime.
After a heart-stopping first overtime, the second overtime ended with much less fanfare and the game headed to a penalty kick shootout to decide the Empire 8 Championship.
Ithaca began the shootout with a miss, and Adler stepped up and knocked his attempt in for the early lead. In the next round, the Bombers made and Ducks missed as the shootout was tied up. Killian made a big diving save in the third round, and Kevin Calloway and Victor Daza both converted the next kicks for Stevens.
Needing just a save or a good kick in the final round, Killian ended it the easy way and came up with another outstanding save to clinch the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. For his stellar performance, Killian was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Empire 8 Tournament.
Joining the MVP on the 2012 Empire 8 Championship All-Tournament Team were Daza, junior midfielder Zeke Hemme, Calloway and Adler.
The team will await its draw when the NCAA Tournament field is announced on Monday. The official NCAA selection show can be seen at NCAA.com at 1 p.m.