Nov. 11, 2011
STORRS, Conn. - Led by a brilliant individual effort from Stephane Diop, the 4/3 UConn men's soccer program earned a 1-0 victory over 14/11 Louisville in the BIG EAST Semifinals. UConn improved to 17-2-2 while Louisville dropped to 12-6-2.
With the victory, No. 3-seeded UConn advanced to the BIG EAST Championship to face the winner of the second semifinal featuring Villanova against St. John's. No. 4-seeded Louisville will have to wait for the NCAA Selection Show to determine its fate on Monday at 4:30 p.m.
The championship game begins at Noon and can be seen live on CBS Sports Network nationally, with regional coverage live on SNY, Cox Sports, Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, The Comcast Network Philadelphia and Time Warner Cable Syracuse/Albany/Rochester/Buffalo.
"This was a hard fought game. It certainly wasn't our best effort at all. We have some tough, tough kids here. We played just good enough and they earned the result. They battled and played well enough to get a huge win tonight against a great Louisville team. This was basically a Final Four game against a team that can win it all," said UConn Head Coach Ray Reid.
With both teams generating quality chances throughout, it took a brilliant effort from Stephane Diopto send UConn into Sunday's match.
At 78:52, Diop took a pass on the right side from Nickardo Blake. Diop took one touch to his left before bending a shot perfectly into the far corner for his fifth goal of the season and his third in as many games in the BIG EAST Tournament. Diop also scored the game-winning goal in double overtime in the last meeting between the two teams this season.
"I took the pass and saw an angle, so I just went for it. I don't know. It was just a good angle and I hit it well," said Diop.
The Huskies were outshot in the contest, 16-9, but the defense recorded the 15th shutout of the season to tie the program record set by the 2000 NCAA Championship team.
With a damp and loose surface, both teams struggled with their footing throughout the night.
Louisville had the first chance of the night with a well-struck volley by Colin Rolfe just 54 seconds into the action forcing a diving save from Blake on the left side of goal.
Connecticut worked the ball well through the midfield from side to side but failed to generate many quality opportunities in the opening 25 minutes. Stephane Diopfound space in the 15th minute but slipped on the soft surface and had his shot blocked by a Louisville defender from 12 yards out on the right side.
Following the media timeout in the 25th minute, the Huskies were able to control the game for a ten-minute stretch leading to a great spell of possession in the Louisville third. Max Wassermanput on a solid shot from 20 yards out that went straight into the hands of Louisville keeper Andre Boudreaux.
The Huskies finished the half down in shots, 5-4, but ahead in corner kicks, 2-0.
Connecticut failed to capitalize on a mistake by the Louisville defense two minutes into the half. A Louisville player fell on the right side leading to a one-on-one opportunity for Mamadou Doudou Dioufwho pulled his shot from the top of the box well wide.
Connecticut pressured in the offensive third seven minutes into the second half, leading to several crosses from Carlos Alvarezon the right side. Diouf eventually connected with a header that was blocked for a corner kick that cleared away by the U of L defense.
Louisville's Michael Roman had the best chance of the night for the Cardinals 13 minutes into the second half. After a cross from the right side, Roman put a shot off the cross bar from 10 yards out.
Diop's goal in the 79th minute held strong as Connecticut closed out the game with a reflex save from Blake on a bicycle kick by Austin Berry with 2:30 remaining.
UConn will be looking for its eighth BIG EAST Tournament Championship on Sunday. The Huskies have advanced to the finals 13 times, winning seven and serving as the runner-up on five occasions.