(FREDERICTON, NB) - The StFX X-Men have advanced to the semi-finals of the Subway AUS men's soccer championship, after a 3-0 win over the UPEI Panthers on Thursday.
Joe Ward (Newport, WALES) scored in the 14th minute, a goal that stood as the winner.
Ward's goal came off what looked to be a weaker shot that Panthers' keeper Brett Strba (Windsor Junction, NS) couldn't get a handle on.
"It's our first win in the playoffs, as a program, since 2003," said X-Men head coach Graham Kennedy. "It's been a long spell for us. We've had a number of overtime and penalty kick losses over the last couple of years, so for us to get the win, it's a step forward in the right direction."
StFX took their 1-0 lead into the half.
The Panthers seemed buoyed by being close to start the second half, but that didn't last long.
Just five minutes in, Lawrence scored to put the X-Men up 2-0.
"Letting in the early goal certainly changed things," said Panthers head coach Lewis Page. "Now you're down two goals, so you're kind of chasing the game from that point."
Despite trailing by two, the Panthers continued to press, but the StFX defence held. "We have great players that are, technically, amazing," said X forward Natneal Tecle (Calgary, AB). "Our game is a passing game and we were organized defensively. We were able to keep the ball on the ground. We have great defensive players, and they did the job today."
"We don't give up a lot, defensively we're pretty sharp and strong in the back. Once we got the first goal, I thought we're going to be okay today," said Kennedy.
An emotional Panthers' senior Mark Ashlee (Victoria, BC), having finished his U Sports career, praised his teammates for their effort.
"It's been five years for me and I couldn't be more proud of this team and how we performed today, regardless of the score," he said. "On effort alone, we had the upper hand for how much we put in, so if that comes down skill, the little things, maybe that's where we fell short," said Ashlee.
The X-Men advance to the semi-finals, where they'll face the No. 2 Cape Breton University Capers, at 7:00PM, on Friday.
The teams have played twice this season, once in pre-season and once during the regular season. Both times, the Capers scored 1-0 wins.
"They're big, they're strong," said Coach Kennedy, of the Capers. "They've got a little bit more experience than we do. Player for player, they've probably got a couple of years on us across the board, on average. But, that said, we're quick and we've got multiple ways of breaking you down, so hopefully one of those ways will come through against them."
Story & Photo courtesy Andy Campbell, UNB Athletics