The win marks the first time in CAA history the No. 6 seed has won the conference men’s soccer tournament. It’s just the second time the No. 6 seed has reached the finals, as Old Dominion fell to the Dukes in 1993 as the six-seed. The championship is JMU’s first title since the 2001 season when the Dukes topped William & Mary 1-0. All five of JMU’s CAA championships have come under the direction of head coach Tom Martin.
As the No. 6 seed in the CAA Tournament, JMU matched up with each of the top three seeds in the tournament in No. 3 Hofstra in the CAA Quarterfinals, No. 2 UNCW in the CAA Semifinals and No. 1 Delaware in the title match. The Dukes did not allow a goal in the tournament, shutting out each of the three teams by a combined score of 5-0.
The win earns JMU the CAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which will start Thursday, Nov. 20. The Dukes will find out their first-round opponent on Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. The show will be streamed live on NCAA.com.
Redshirt-sophomore forward Connor Coward (Centreville, Va./Centreville) scored the game’s only goal in the 21st minute. On a cross from redshirt-senior midfielder Steven Mashinski (Fairfax, Va./Chantilly) from the right side of the box, Coward collected the ball at the top of the penalty area, fended off a defender and turned to put himself with the ball on his left foot with a clear shot at goal. Coward slotted his shot just inside the right post past First Team All-CAA goalkeeper Borja Barbero for his fifth goal of the season.
Just minutes before Coward put the Dukes up 1-0, he nearly put JMU on the board with a rocket of a shot from the same spot as his goal at the top of the penalty area but Barbero made a diving save to tip the shot over the bar and keep the match scoreless.
With the Blue Hens pushing for the equalizer throughout the second half, Delaware had multiple chances to score and nearly got on the board with in the 62nd minute when Tobias Muller put a dangerous header just inches over a crossbar off a corner kick.
Redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Morton (West Chester, Pa./Reed Henderson) recorded his third shutout in a row in the victory, stopping five shots on the way to recording his ninth shutout of the season. He is now tied with Elon goalkeeper Nathan Dean for the most shutouts in the CAA this season.
For his efforts in the tournament, senior defender Daniel Simpson (Warrenton, Va./Kettle Run) was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Coward, Morton, junior defender Bjarki Aðalsteinsson (Kópavogur, Iceland/Menntaskólinn í Kópavogi) were all named to the All-Tournament team for their outstanding performances throughout the two games this weekend.
The win moves JMU to the Dukes to 10-7-4 on the season while Delaware drops to 13-6-1. The Dukes have now won three games in a row, which marks the longest winning streak of the season. The previous best was a two-game streak when the Dukes beat Belmont on Sept. 12 and Lipscomb on Sept. 14 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Daniel Simpson, James Madison
CAA All-Tournament Team
Bjarki Aðalsteinsson, James Madison
Daniel Arvidsson, Northeastern
Borja Barbero, Delaware
Colin Bonner, UNCW
Connor Coward, James Madison
Joe Dipre, Delaware
Kyle Morton, James Madison
Ambry Moss, Northeastern
Carlos Perales, Delaware
Daniel Simpson, James Madison
Jacob VanCompernolle, UNCW