Pennsauken, NJ – Merchant Marine had just 1:06 left in the 2013 season before Kyle Arestivo (Northport, NY) found the corner of the net with a penalty kick that gave the Mariners a 2-1 double overtime victory over Catholic Monday night. After securing three crucial points against the Landmark Conference regular season champion Cardinals, the Mariners will now enter the Landmark Conference Tournament as the third seed. USMMA goaltender Gary Poulin (Hauppauge, NY) played outstanding, making seven total saves, including several spectacular efforts in overtime.
"We went into this match knowing our backs were against the wall and we needed a win," said Head Coach Michael Smolens. "We came out strong right away and scored a terrific goal and took it to Catholic in the first half. In the second overtime we had some good chances to score and when Weldon was taken down to draw a penalty kick, Arestivo stepped up in a pressure situation and made the kick. We're excited about the win and know we have a tough battle ahead of us against Susquehanna on Thursday."
Merchant Marine (7-7-1, 4-3-0 Landmark) got on the board just 4:54 into the pivotal match-up as Tanner Nestler (Asheville, NC) struck from long distance. The senior fired a shot on goal from 40 yards out that found its way over the CUA net minder and gave the Mariners a quick 1-0 edge. Nestler almost scored a second goal 15 minutes later but his shot just sailed over the crossbar.
Catholic (12-4-2, 5-1-1 Landmark) maintained pressure in the latter stages of the first half and nearly found an equalizer with just over six minutes to play. However, Poulin made his first diving stop of the night, denying Alex Laprade with a full extension effort. However, Michael McCurin leveled the match at 1-1 after knocking home a loose ball from close range with 3:06 left in the opening period.
The two teams combined for just one shot on goal in the second half but both had scoring chances turned away by the opposing defense. The biggest threat to break the tie came on a McCurin shot with seven minutes remaining in regulation. Poulin laid out to punch the ball away, keep the Mariners' season alive, and send the game to overtime.
The Cardinals had the best look at the goal in the first overtime with 2:30 left on a Kevin Romano breakaway up the right side of the field. Poulin made a sliding stop to extend the evening into double overtime.
Romano had another chance to end the game for the Cardinals just over three minutes into the second extra session. He fired a rocket towards the left side of the net that appeared would end the Mariners playoff hopes. However, Poulin came up with his most spectacular save of the night, another full extension effort that allowed USMMA to push forward.
"Our back four Culliver, Kempinski, Becker, and Parker did a terrific job of containing a very dangerous Catholic team," said Smolens. "In overtime we pushed forward knowing we needed a win, leaving us vulnerable in the back and Gary Poulin came up big when we needed him most. "
Merchant Marine began generating opportunities down the stretch and eventually Dan Weldon (Holland Township, NJ) was dragged down from behind by a defender inside the 18-yard box to earn a penalty kick. Arestivo was chosen to step up and the senior delivered the goal that started the Mariners celebration.
The USMMA soccer team will take on #2 Susquehanna Thursday night in the Landmark Conference Tournament semifinals.