ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. - The University of Dayton clinched the Atlantic 10 Men's Soccer Regular Season Championship with a dramatic come-from-behind 2-1 overtime victory over St. Bonaventure Sunday. No. 23 UD (13-4-1, 8-1-0 A-10) needed a tie or a win to claim the title outright.
The men joined the Flyer women's soccer team, who also claimed the 2009 Regular Season title, and hope to duplicate their efforts in winning the tournament championship (Dayton defeated Charlotte 2-1 in the A-10 Women's Soccer Championship Final).
"We want to congratulate the women for such a great season on winning the A-10 regular season and tournament championships," said UD Head Coach Dennis Currier.
Senior Jeff Popella was the hero of the SBU match for the Flyers, who were down 1-0 with just a little over a minute to play in regulation.
Popella was awarded a penalty kick in the 89th minute after he was tackled from behind in the box. He converted the PK to tie it up and he is now 2-for-2 this season on penalty kicks.
"Popella did a great job putting the ball into the back of the net," said Currier.
"Ryan Handbury played a back heel pass and I took it down the left hand side," added Popella. "I faked the shot and the defender jumped in and fouled me. We were having a tough time finishing. We created a lot of chances and kept a lot of pressure on them and it finally paid off."
In the overtime period, the Bonnies had the first chance at upsetting the nationally-ranked Flyers but sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Picard came up with a huge save. Then just 1:41 into the overtime, Popella struck again on an assist from Michael Deyhle.
"Zach Weiss had a masterful flick. Michael Deyhle played me the ball and I got behind defense," said Popella who has scored the game-winning goal in UD's last three games. "(Alex) Torda yelled at me to touch it around the keeper. I listened to his instruction and put it away. I actually fell down after the goal and everyone jumped on me. It was a great celebration."
Popella has posted back-to-back two-goal games for the Flyers, after recovering from a serious injury.
"It was tough trying to get back into it," he said. "(Dayton's leading scorer) Isaac Kissi got hurt so I needed to step up. I was excited to get back into playing form and contribute. Towards the end of last season we had a bad finish and didn't get the regular season title. The difference this year is we stepped up and finished strong."
The Flyers won the Men's Soccer Regular Season Title for the first time since 2000.
"Going into this game we talked about how we wanted no injuries and no cards," said Currier. "In the back of your mind you want to claim the title yourself. After all the hard work and perseverance it's a nice touch to take the title and it makes it even more special to have it outright."
St. Bonventure (9-8-0, 5-4-0 A-10) got an early lead with a goal in the fourth minute from Sam Maheu.
"For the first 15 minutes we came out flat. After that we came out strong and put a lot of pressure on them," said Currier. "We had a bigger travel squad. We were trying to put something more creative on goal. The guys came in and did a pretty good job and it was a great team effort all around."
The Atlantic 10 Men's Soccer Championship will be played in Kingston, R.I. on the campus of the University of Rhode Island. The Flyers, who captured the No. 1 seed and will have a first round bye, will play in the semifinal Friday, Nov. 13.