NCAA Men’s Division II National Championship
Barry University 2, West Chester University 1
Barry University men’s soccer team managed to overcome an early 1-0 deficit, stunning West Chester with two late second half goals to capture its first-ever National Championship in a game played in hard rain conditions at Highmark Stadium on Saturday.
The result spoiled Pittsburgh native Will Marshall‘s chance at completing an euphoric homecoming, and his school’s bid to win its first National Championship in men’s soccer since 1961.
For Barry, a program that’s been on the rise in Men’s Division II, it was a culmination that was many years in the making.
“It’s hard to find the words right now, because I just want to explode. Credit really goes to coach Michael Been and West Chester because he’s obviously put together a very stringent program. On our side of things, extremely excited and we finally exorcised some demons that were sitting around for 18 years,” Steve McCrath, Barry’s head coach said. “We had some alumni who were in that game (a 2-1 four overime loss in the title game in 2000 to Cal State Dominguez Hills) in the stands and that’s what this program is all about: family.”
ED THOMPSON PHOTO GALLERY – BARRY BUCS – NCAA DII MEN’s NATIONAL CHAMPIONS (2018)
HOW IT HAPPENED
It started as a physical match where it was difficult to score in the run of play due to difficult weather.
Each goal came from a play started on set piece opportunities.
West Chester tried to nix the Barry attack, but challenging hard for every contested ball — and it showed as they finished with a 21-13 edge in fouls conceded.
West Chester’s Jason Pixley scored in the 25th minute on a corner kick, taking advantage of the Bucs zone defending in the box. With three players surrounding goalkeeper Marco Sordi — Pixley took advantage of a ball played to the near post area by his teammate Brett Miller.
The Golden Rams grabbed the lead, and a boat load of confidences as the teams continued to battle through the rest of the first half, with Barry only able to muster one shot on frame, a fairly weak effort that West Chester’s goalkeeper Will Marshall handled with ease. Otherwise, Barry’s advances consisted of long free kicks that
Barry on the other hand, were struggling to get any kind of ample possessions deep into the final third. The Bucs were controlling the ball for long bouts in the midfield, but when contending with the weather conditions, and a fairly effective high press from West Chester.
Somewhere around the 55th minute, their continued possession started to tire West Chester, which as a unit started to drop back from pressing as the game entered the final half hour of the match.
“They started to drop back deeper as the match wore on,” Kosmala said.”We started to get stronger and create more opportunities — and finally get deeper into the final third.”
Barry battled back in the second half, finally breaking through with a pair of goals from James Kirkham and Steven Kosmala.
Just like West Chester did in the first half — the Bucs would take advantage of set pieces.
In the 77th minute, Kirkham took advantage of an opening after a corner kick forced Marshall way off his line.
Marshall denied a shot attempt after the ball was played to the back post by Francisco Greco, tried to punch the ball away from danger, then raced to get back in the goal box. Greco got to the ball — and send a cross back into the box for Kirkam.
Even though the keeper was back in position, Kirkham took advantage, with a perfectly placed redirected header that sailed over Marshall and into goal for the equalizer.
“I was just happy to win a header. At five foot nothing, I don’t really tend to do that often. The ball was going out to Fran (Greco) on the left-hand side and we’ve been working quite a lot in training in getting in front of the first man, so I made sure I was there. The ball came in and I just tried to direct it toward the goal and hope for the best.”
The momentum of the match stayed right with Barry after tying the match.
Greco, who was dominating play, created another golden opportunity for the Bucs, getting fouled in the 82nd minute just outside the box.
That set up Kosmala’s free kick.
The senior from England delivered a low ball that bounced through the West Chester wall, and past the outstretched arms of a diving Will Marshall.
ED THOMPSON PHOTO GALLERY – KOSMALA’S GAME WINNER
“I’m not usually on them, to be honest,” Kosmala said of the direct kick. “But I just thought, with this surface, with the weather, it’s quite slippery. So I just thought that hitting the target was the most important thing. So I didn’t decide where I was going to place the ball until I saw the goalie kind almost in the middle of his goal. I saw a bend around to kind of hit the target and it went in.”
West Chester made a few deep advances in the waning moments, but couldn’t create a solid chance on frame — and Barry held on for it monumental win.
“Congratulations to Barry on the victory and say that they are a fantastic, well-coached program” Michael Benn, West Chester’s coach. “I could not be prouder of my guys as they played well and played so hard all-day but sometimes in sports, it is just not your day. This senior class has done so many great things for this program including getting this program to a spot where the University and our alumni can be extremely proud of it. It is always tough to finish a season although I think we can certainly leave with our heads held high”
— NCAA Division II (@NCAADII) December 1, 2018
THEY SAID IT
Post-game with Pittsburgh native, Will Marshall, who reflected on his experience of returning to his hometown and coming up just short of winning a National Championship.
“Will (Marshall) was solid addition for us this year. He stepped in and really helped our team in a big way, ” Benn said of his senior keeper from Pittsburgh.
We really relied on his experience. He’s an extremely technical keeper with good feet. Came up big for us time after time this year.”
“No, It’s not set in yet (the fact of winning a national championship like his father Cliff McCrath). It’s sinking, but I think that, there was a point, where we were down, probably just a couple minutes before (James) Kirkham scored and I was thinking, ‘Man, you know, Dad had to lose three of these things before he finally won one. I don’t think I can do that.’ And then I prayed and we scored. And I let out a primal scream, like I normally don’t do. I don’t think Ali Simmons, who is a massive credit to this program, was prepared for that. I’m proud and honored to be in that cathedral now. Because you are talking about a man (Cliff McCrath) who’s been in 10 championship games.”– McCrath on joining his father Cliff McCrath as a national champion.
Cliff McCrath won five D2 men’s soccer National Championships at Seattle Pacific between 1978 and 1993. (Thanks Riverhounds coach Dan Visser for providing that tidbit earlier in the day!)
FINAL GAME NOTES
Here was the 2018 NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer All-Tournament Team
Eduardo Faria, Cal Poly Pomona
Nadeer Ghantous, Cal Poly Pomona
Raul Fierro, Fort Hays State
Alonso Rodriguez, Fort Hays State
Kyle Hoops, West Chester
Jason Pixley, West Chester
Andrew Slater, West Chester
James Kirkham, Barry
Marco Sordi, Barry
Francisco Greco, Barry (Most Outstanding Player – Offense)
Stephen Kosmala, Barry (Most Outstanding Player – Defense)