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For Warriors, Home Field is Advantage Again

For Warriors, Home Field is Advantage Again

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. --  Junior Tyler Jones (Vernon) scored his seventh goal of the season with 3:46 gone in overtime to lift the Eastern Connecticut State University men's soccer team to a 2-1 non-conference victory over the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Tuesday afternoon at Thomas Nevers Field.

Ranked No. 4 in New England, Eastern (14-2-1) took a lead into the final minutes of regulation before Coast Guard (5-11-1) forced overtime when Lucas Benedetto converted a penalty kick with 2:15 left in regulation after the Warriors were whistled for a hand ball at the top of the box.
The Warriors remained unbeaten this year in overtime (4-0-1) when senior Gavin Neuendorf (Norwich) and sophomore  Xavier Doran (Hebron) set up Jones' game-ending goal. Sophomore JD Stearns (Bolton) sent a pass from the middle of the field to Neuendorf, who served a perfect ball into the box, over the head of Jones. Doran chested it down to the foot of Jones, standing just a stride to his left, and Jones  one-timed a drive for his second game-winning goal under the crossbar from just inside the 18-yard box to keep Eastern perfect (8-0-0) at home this year.
Following an uneventful and scoreless first half, Cooper D'Ambrosio (Hebron) put the Warriors in front 61 seconds into the second half when he knocked in Derek Parker's (Cromwell) corner kick that the visitors were unable to clear out of the box. D'Ambrosio slid his fourth goal of the season under a tangle of bodies from the middle of the box.
Eastern did not put any of its two shots on net in the first half, when Coast Guard had four legitimate opportunities to take the lead. With nine minutes gone, Eastern keeper Ryan Murphy (Cromwell) made a fingertip save of Benedetto's long, hard drive to deny the Bears' first chance. Three minutes later, Murphy was forced to dive to his left to haul in Ricky Davies' shot off a corner kick. Five minutes after Davies' chance, Benedetto crossed the ball to Patrick Hanrahan, whose  header sailed just to the left of the left post. Three minutes after the Warriors managed their first shot (wide) by Doran, Coast Guard had another near miss with 16 minutes left in the half. A long free kick to the right of the box carried to the far left post, where it was headed back across the goal mouth. No Coast Guard player was there and the Warriors cleared it out of danger.

Coast Guard held a 9-7 edge in shots, with Murphy making four saves and Jake Sorenson of Coast Guard one.

At left: Eastern's three seniors and their families were honored prior to the game. (Photo by Taylor Emmerson)

The victory leaves the team's three outgoing seniors -- D'Ambrosio, Neuendorf and Zane Lombardo (Portland) -- unbeaten at home in the regular season in their final seasons. The trio and their families were honored prior to the start of the match in celebration of Seniors' Day.

Eastern travels to face the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Saturday at 4 p.m. in the regular-season and Little East Conference finale.