With the drive for five straight post-season berths successfully completed, the Massachusetts Maritime men’s soccer program now has its sights squarely set on the program’s first Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament title, and that quest begins on Friday evening when the Buccaneers host Westfield State in semifinal round play of the 2017 league championships at Clean Harbors Stadium.
Head Coach Greg Perry, who is celebrating his Silver Anniversary season alongside the banks of the Cape Cod Canal, will lead his second-seeded squad into action against his alma mater beginning at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Massachusetts Maritime, which posted six overall victories and one tie in regular season action, earned a bye into the MASCAC semifinals for the fourth time since 2013 after notching a 4-3 conference slate, while sixth-seeded Westfield State punched its ticket to Buzzards Bay with a 1-0 quarterfinal round triumph over third-seeded Worcester State on Tuesday evening at Coughlin Field in Worcester, Mass.
The Buccaneers have sailed into unchartered territory in the illustrious history of the men’s soccer program, as no Massachusetts Maritime squad has ever earned five straight post-season berths prior to this fall. Perry has always prepared his troops for conference play with one of the most rugged non-conference schedules in the region, and the 2017 campaign has been no exception with Buccaneer opponents posting an overall mark of 90-68-16 for a .563 winning percentage.
Sophomore midfielder Adam Crawford (Kingston, Mass./Silver Lake), who earned all-MASCAC accolades as a rookie last fall, leads a balanced Massachusetts Maritime scoring attack with four goals and two assists for 10 points, including a game-winning penalty kick conversion last Friday evening in a 1-0 victory over Worcester State that clinched a spot in the semifinal round. Freshman midfielder Jacob Crawford (Rockland, Mass./Rockland), a league Rookie of the Week honoree earlier this season, follows with three goals and an assist for seven points, while junior all-MASCAC midfielder Brendan Gawron (Braintree, Mass./Braintree) and freshman forward James Roland (Fairfield, Conn./Fairfield Ludlowe) have each collected two markers and a helper for five points.
Three-time first team all-MASCAC senior Mick Rouette (Three Rivers, Mass./Monson) leads an experienced backfield unit for Perry, which has allowed one of fewer goals in eight contests overall while recording four clean sheets along the way. Fellow senior Mike Pruchnik (Rochester, Mass./Old Rochester) has shined down the stretch in goal for the Buccaneers, as the 2016 all-MASCAC honoree and reigning conference Player of the Week has made 102 saves this season alone (203 for his career) while notching four shutouts along the way. Pruchnik’s performance in the last month has helped propel Massachusetts Maritime’s run to the post-season, as he has posted a 3-1-1 mark while allowing just three goals and recording three shutouts.
Westfield State brings an overall record of 8-9 into Friday’s semifinal clash, as Head Coach John Evans has guided the Owls to the post-season in five of his first six campaigns that includes the 2015 MASCAC title and a trip to the NCAA Division III championships. Junior forward Legend Mu’min paces Westfield State’s attack with six goals for 12 points, while senior midfielder Kyle Mutti has chipped in with four goals and four assists that includes the deciding tally in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round win at Worcester State. Senior goalkeeper Alex Kraver has made 42 saves and registered five shutouts in net for the Owls, who have won three of their last four entering Friday’s action.
Massachusetts Maritime and Westfield State will meet for the second time this season at Clean Harbors Stadium with Friday’s semifinal contest, as Gawron’s goal in the 52nd minute of play proved to be the lone marker of the match in a 1-0 Buccaneer win on October 6th that was backed by Pruchnik’s four-save effort in net. Friday’s outing will also mark the first-ever post-season meeting between the two teams.
The winner of the Massachusetts Maritime-Westfield State semifinal contest will advance to the 2017 MASCAC championship game on Sunday, November 5th at Noon EST to take on the winner of Friday’s other semifinal round match-up between top-seeded Salem State and fourth-seeded Framingham State at the site of the highest remaining seed.
Live stats and video links for Friday’s match will be available at www.mmabucs.com, and a live feed of the contest will also be streamed on Facebook Live on the Buccaneer Facebook page (mmabucs).