Junior forward Stephane Diop scored the lone goal of the first BIG EAST men’s soccer championship semifinal to lead Connecticut past defending champion Louisville 1-0 at Red Bull Arena on Friday evening. The winner advances to the play either Villanova or St. John’s in the BIG EAST Championship final on Sunday, Nov. 13 at noon. The Wildcats and Red Storm play at 7:30 p.m.
With 78:52 on the clock, the first goal of the game was netted by Diop, who fired into the upper 90 by the left post from 20 yards out. The play was started by a pass from senior defender Nickardo Blake.
With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Louisville had a chance to tie it up as redshirt-senior defender Austin Berry took a bicycle-kick shot following a scramble at the 6-yard line, but BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake made the save to preserve the shutout.
The Cardinals out-shot the Huskies 16-9, but UConn held a 5-2 edge in corner kicks. Blake made four saves to earn his 14th shutout of the season.
Connecticut has 15 shutouts on the year, tying the program record set in 2000. UConn entered the game ranking second in the nation with a 0.34 goals against average.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Connecticut Head Coach Ray Reid. “We didn’t play our best game, but we have a tough team this year. I couldn’t be prouder with the young guys I have here today.”
“I’m a Jersey boy, I went to high school 10 minutes from here,” said junior Jossimar Sanchez, from Paterson, N.J. “When I found out we were going to play [at Red Bull Arena], I was excited and it’s been great so far.”
Connecticut, the No. 3 seed in the Blue Division, defeated DePaul at home 4-0 in the first round and Rutgers 3-1 on the road to reach the semifinals.
Louisville, the No. 4 seed in the Red Division, defeated Providence 5-0 in the first round at home and Marquette 1-0 on the road to advance to the semifinals.
“We dominated for stretches of the game and created some good chances,” said Louisville Head Coach Ken Lolla. “But they had some good chances and I give them credit, they took one of those chances and scored.”
Updated statistics, notes, recaps and clips are available at Championship Central, on www.bigeast.org and www.bigeastsoccer.com