Sean Nealis helped Hofstra overcome a 1-0 deficit to win. (Photo courtesy of Hofstra SID)
Harrisonburg, Va. – Goals by senior Sean Nealis and junior Luke Brown in the final 10:37 of regulation erased a 1-0 deficit and gave third-seed Hofstra a 2-1 victory over the second-seed Seahawks of UNCW in the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association Men’s Soccer Championship at Sentara Park Friday evening.
The Hofstra victory sends the Pride into Sunday’s CAA Championship game against the winner of tonight’s second semifinal contest between top-seed James Madison and fifth-seed William and Mary. The title game will begin at 1 p.m. Hofstra will be looking for its fifth CAA Championship and will be making its seventh CAA title game appearance.
The Pride, who improved to 10-6-4 on the season with their third win in the last four outings, fell behind the Seahawks of UNCW in the 32nd minute as Danny Reynolds scored on a free kick from 30 yards out that beat Pride goalkeeper Alex Ashton (two saves).
Hofstra came out inspired in the second half and carried much of the play in the final 45 minutes. The Pride thought they had tied the game in the 77th minute but had the goal nullified by an offside call. But Hofstra scored the equalizer with 10:37 to play as Nealis, who was the 2018 CAA Defensive Player of the Year, used his height to head in a corner kick by Marcus Lindquist to tie the game at 1-1. It was Nealis’ second goal of the year
A little over six minutes later, at the 85:27 mark, Hofstra was given a gift by UNCW goalie Ryan Cretens (4 saves) as the senior got careless in the box and Brown rushed in and stole the ball and slid a shot into the empty net. It was Brown’s sixth goal of the season and his third game-winning goal of the year.
Hofstra outshot UNCW, 14-8 including 7-3 in the second half while the Seahawks had the advantage in corner kicks, 8-2.
The Pride split with the two other semifinal teams during the regular season. Hofstra defeated William and Mary, 4-0 in Hempstead on September 29 and dropped a 2-0 decision to James Madison on October 13 on Long Island.