NORTH ADAMS -- With a large, enthusiastic crowd on a hot, sunny, late summer afternoon in North Adams, the MCLA men's soccer team was hoping to send its fans home happy with a CIAO Soccer Classic championship.
Salve Regina forward Alex Wasilewski had other ideas.
Wasilewski's goal late in the first half proved to be the difference, as the Seahawks averted numerous second-half chances and defeated MCLA 1-0 Sunday afternoon at Ron Shewcraft Field.
The first 39 minutes of the first half provided scoring opportunities few and far between for both teams, the closest chance for either coming 10 minutes in when Trailblazers forward Jake McCall sailed a screaming shot just above the crossbar.
With 5:44 remaining in the first half, Wasilewski ended the drought by knocking a pass from Bobby Ernst past Trailblazers goalie Dillon Wager into the left corner of the net, putting the Seahawks (3-0) on the board and in the lead for good.
Ernst, a team captain who was named Defensive MVP of the tournament following the game, said that veteran leaders setting the tone early in the game is crucial for a squad which features eight freshmen and 13 sophomores.
"This is my senior year, and I've really been trying to make an effort to rally the troops and make our individual efforts effective as one team effort," Ernst said.
He added that it was important to take advantage of early chances against MCLA, which won the CIAO tournament championship last year.
"When we have opportunities, we can be very dangerous, and it was really important that we took advantage of this early on based on how the game played out," he said.
Despite being outshot 20-10, the Trailblazers had multiple opportunities to tie the score in the second half, but couldn't bust through against Seahawks goalie Daniel Stern.
The closest chance came with 14 minutes remaining, when Stern misplayed a loose ball in front of the net, allowing forward Luke Fisher an open shot at the net. But a team save would bail Stern out, and MCLA would pose no real scoring threats for the remainder of the game.
Overall, the weekend was a disappointment for the Trailblazers (2-2), already having lost 2-1 to SUNYIT in their Saturday afternoon contest and coming away from their home tournament empty-handed.
However, MCLA coach Adam Hildabrand was encouraged by the effort of his team despite playing under difficult circumstances.
"Today was a tough matchup for us, as we were down six players, and yesterday we were facing a tough team coming off of an NCAA tournament bid [SUNY-IT], but overall, I really don't think we played that badly this weekend," Hildabrand said.
The Trailblazers and their ailing players will have five days to regroup before traveling to Salem State next Saturday afternoon.
Notes: Union earned the tournament runner-up finish in the early game when midfielder Daniel Miller headed in a free-kick from Thomas Murtaugh, defeating SUNY-IT with 2:44 remaining in double overtime Union forward Sebastiaan Jansen earned his second consecutive tournament Offensive MVP award, tallying a goal in each of the Dutchmen's games in the tournament MCLA President Mary Grant was on hand to address the crowd prior to the start of the game.
Salve Regina 1, MCLA 0
S.R. 1 0 -- 1
MCLA 0 0 -- 0
SR -- Alex Wasilewski (Bobby Ernst), 39:16.