BROCKTON, MA — The Monroe Mustangs soccer program flexed its muscles on Sunday afternoon as both the men’s and women’s teams won their respective District Championships with one-goal wins in highly-competitive matches. In Brockton, MA, the men defeated a rough and physical Massasoit team 2-1, with both goals coming from Bronx freshman Kalifa Sylla. An hour later in Newark, NJ, Brazilian superstar sophomore Ana Carol Rodrigues tallied with just over two-minutes remaining for the lone goal of the match between the Mustangs and #6-ranked Monroe CC (Rochester, NY). As a result the 11-3 men’s team, who came into the Districts unranked, will travel to Prescott, AZ to play in their nationals as Northeast District Champions, while the 15-1, #2-ranked women will be in Melbourne FL as District E Champions for their chance at a national title. Both tournaments will take place November 17-22.
“Lots of teams go to the nationals, just glad they got there,” men’s head coach Marcus DiBernardo told his team after the Final, “but that’s not us. We have intention of playing for a national championship.”
As for the women, head coach Jonathan Garbar said, “Now, we do what we do best, and that is prepare for the next challenge, the ultimate goal of being the last program standing on the field. I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow.”
Coach Dibernado’s men’s team had their hands full with the #13-ranked Monroe CC Tribunes. But with goals from Fabian Burnett and Sylla, the Mustangs outlasted the Tribunes and qualified for the final. “We did what we needed to do,” Coach ‘D’ said in the huddle after the game. “This was the first half of the business we came up here to take care of this weekend,” he said. “It was an awesome effort today. This team was not an easy team to beat and it was a total work rate by everyone here.”
The Monroe women had a bit of an easier time in their semifinal defeat of CCRI, getting five first-half goals from four different players: Rodrigues had two and sophomores Gemma Craine and Samantha Mendez had one each, as did freshman Gabriela Maidana.
The Mustang men had their hands full with the #13 Massasoit Warriors, who had the advantage of being able to play for a championship on their home field. The bruising, physical game reminded some on the Mustang bench of their Region Final against ASA that featured three red cards. There was one issued in this one (to Massasoit) and there were several stoppages of play for injuries and disagreements with officials. Nonetheless, Monroe got two goals from Sylla, both in the first half. The first was a statement-maker for Monroe as it came in the sixth minute. After taking a pass from sophomore defender Christopher Puente, he launched a high line-drive blast from 15-yards away to the upper left corner of the net.
After the Warriors tied it in the 33rd minute off a scrum in front of the net, Sylla launched the eventual game-winner in the 41st minute on a pass from sophomore Tarek Beckles.
The women’s Final was a memorable scoreless struggle between two top-ten teams until the 87th minute when Rodrigues got the game’s only goal, a low-liner into the left side of the net off a feed from Maidana, the one that sent Monroe to the Nationals.
“This was absolutely the most challenging competition our program has faced since we first stepped on the field together in August,” said Coach Garbar. “Both teams tapped into everything they had physically and mentally, and the result was an absolute monster of a game. It’s unfortunate that both teams can’t compete at Nationals, as we play in maybe the strongest District in the nation. For me, the greatest aspect of the experience was watching our student athletes realize that they are the heroes that they have trained themselves to be. They earned the right to determine their own fate and they did just that.”
This will be the Mustang men’s first trip to the NJCAA Division I national tournament since 2011, when they were national finalists. The Monroe women will be making their second consecutive DI National Tournament appearance. Last year they played into the second round. As a DIII team in 2011, Monroe was a national finalist.