WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Sophomore forward Komla Dogbey (Providence, RI) scored his conference-leading 16th goal of the season on a header from six yards with 8:21 left in the first half to lift the Rhode Island College men's soccer team to a 1-0 victory over host Eastern Connecticut State University in the semifinal round of the Little East Conference playoffs Wednesday afternoon at Thomas Nevers Field.
The win avenges fourth-seeded Rhode Island's (11-6-0) 1-0 overtime loss to Eastern (14-4-1) at Nevers Field 11 days ago and vaults the Anchormen into the championship match against defending champion and No. 3-seeded Massachusetts Boston (15-4-0) Saturday at Boston College High School. Rhode Island is making its fifth appearance in the championship match, having won one title (2008), 1-0, over Plymouth State University. The Anchormen lost in the final in 2004, 2005 and 2010.
Dogbey, limited to one shot in his team's regular-season loss to Eastern, connected on a header on a beautiful crossing serve into the box and over the Eastern defense by freshman midfielder Dennis Vazquez from the left flank. Relatively unmarked, Dogbey leaped to send the shot from close range inside the right post.
The 1-0 loss is the second in four days against a conference opponent and is Eastern's first two-game losing streak of the season. Prior to Tuesday, the Warriors were 8-0 at home this year with five shutouts.
Rhode Island junior keeper Chris Moura made five saves to post his fifth shutout in 16 starts this year. Moura was not severely tested at any point, with his starting defense of juniors Issifou Kankarafou, Yemi Matthew, and Evan Rosa
and senior Joey Plude providing staunch protection.
Eastern's best opportunities came in the first half, when Moura was called upon for four saves. In the second half, Eastern junior Tyler Jones (Vernon) had a clear shot from the top of the circle midway through the half, but ripped high over the crossbar midway through the period. Moura broke up scoring try with 18 minutes left when he drove headlong to break up a chance by Jones. The Warriors were also given a free kick from just outside the box midway through the half, but the line drive into the box was broken up by the RIC defense.
With the game scoreless with 14 minutes left in the first half, a counter gave RIC sophomore Steven Cardoso (Pawtucket, RI) an open look from the top of the box, but his drive in space sailed over the cross bar. A minute later, a perfect through-ball sprung Dogbey in the box, but Eastern freshman keeper Ryan Murphy (Cromwell) beat the player to the ball, scooping it up before Dogbey could get a touch.
Moura's best save came with 25 minutes left in the first half. After RIC was whistled for a foul that caused an Eastern player to leave the match with a severe ankle injury, senior back Cooper D'Ambrosio (Andover) pegged a left-footed curling free kick from outside the box that Moura smothered with a sprawl to the far right post.
RIC outshot Eastern, 12-7, and limited the Warriors to a lone corner kick.
Ranked ninth in the most recent NCAA Division III New England rankings, released today, Eastern will be one of many teams considered for an at-large bid.