The Westminster College Blue Jays made it five straight championships after a 2-1 victory over Principia College on Friday night in the 2017 SLIAC Tournament Championship Game. The Blues Jays extended their conference record streak to five years with a 2017 title, winning as the #4 seed in this year's tournament. Westminster did not secure a spot in the tournament until a win on the final day of the regular season but continued their hot streak down the stretch and have now gone 4-0-1 in their last five games. Westminster is just the second #4 seed to win the title since the conference went to a four-team tournament field in 2004.
Playing in front of a raucous Principia home crowd Westminster found the back of the net early, scoring just six minutes into the game. After drawing a foul just outside the top of the box, Westminster head coach Adam Galla went to a set piece that called for Mauricio Mateo to take the shot off a free kick. Mateo buried the ball into the back of the net for the Blue Jay lead.
Principia was not phased and turned up their pressure, controlling the attack for the next portion of the game. The Panthers pressure resulted in four corner kicks over the next ten minutes but was unable to find the net.
Both keepers, Westminster's Connor Bandre and Principia's Matt Jones, came up with big diving stops in the first -half to keep the score at 1-0. The Blue Jays offensive strategy was to use their speed up front and it paid off once again when they sent a long ball deep into the Panther zone. As the ball was rolling towards the keeper Westminster's Brent Lampen swooped in and beat the keeper to the ball, sliding it in for a 2-0 lead.
Principia continued their pressure with Keller making runs on both sides of the field and trying to find an opening through the Blue Jay defense. Likewise, teammate, George Again was aggressive weaving his way through the field but was consistently stymied by the Blue Jay defense.
Facing the conference Offensive Player of the Year, Kaleb Keller, the Blue Jays held a strong backline all game long, with Blake Hausman, Joshua Udinyiew, and Luciano Zarinelli remaining on their side of the field to prevent and Panther attacker from sneaking behind them.
Just like in the first-half the Panthers fought their way back, once again turning up their pressure at the end of the game. That pressure resulted in drawing a penalty kick, that allowed Kaleb Keller to step to the mark for the shot. Keller buried the shot, his 18th goal of the season, to cut the lead to 2-1 with just over 10-minutes left in regulation.
Principia continued their pressure down the stretch, including forcing a corner kick with 10-seconds left but saw the ball easily cleared out of the box; allowing Westminster fans, players, and coaches to enjoy the final countdown.
Principia outshot Westminster 15-11 in the game and held a 9-4 edge in corner kicks. Westminster keeper Connor Bandre made four saves in the game and picked up SLIAC Tournament MVP honors while Principia's Matt Jones finished with six saves and joined him on the All-Tournament team.
Also making the 2017 SLIAC All-Tournament team were Westminster's Patrick Bromstedt, Austin Chandler, and Joshua Udinyiwe; Principia's Briggs Hurley and Carson Hussey; Fontbonne's Tony Pitaro and Corey Schmidt; and Webster's David Allred and Cam Killian.
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