MEDFORD, Mass. - With under three minutes remaining in the first overtime, Nighthawks freshman Albert Baraka (Bukavu, Dem. Rep. of Congo) scored the goal of a lifetime, sending the Newbury Nighthawks to the NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament by virtue of their 1-0 victory over Mitchell College on Sunday afternoon at Hormel Stadium.
The play began with freshman Warren Exceus (Boston, Mass.) shooting from 30 yards out, a shot saved by Mariners junior goalie Seth Strader (Preston, Conn.). But the shot produced a rebound, that found a crashing Baraka, who scored his third goal of the season, none bigger than the golden goal game-winner.
"Warren took a good shot and I knew I wasn't offsides, so my only decision was to just go for it," said Baraka. "Anything can happen there and all I was thinking and seeing was the ball hitting the net. That's all I could think of at that spot."
The overtime period was fairly quiet until the goal, something that couldn't be said for the numerous, top-quality opportunities both teams had.
Nighthawks junior Chris Tran (Nantucket, Mass.) was sensational for the Nighthawks, making critical saves throughout the game.
In the fourth minute, freshman Jhan Carlos Bermeo (Clinton, Conn.) forced a big save from Tran that deflected off the crossbar after the save. Later in the half, a cross would find freshman Daniel Hotaling (Richmondville, N.Y.) but Tran denied him from close range, keeping the match scoreless.
"I wouldn't have been able to do it without my back four," said Tran. "I had confidence in my team, confidence in myself, and I knew we'd bring it home... I'm happy we were able to bring it home for Newbury, we made history today and that's what matters."
In the second half, sophomore Quinn Outerbridge (Hamilton, Bermuda) had his best chance off a free kick. Outerbridge's strike looked as if it would break the tie, but Tran flashed the left hand, making another big save for Newbury.
"The game was really intense and we had to keep giving it everything we had," said junior captain Andrew Kalombo (Worcester, Mass.), a member of the back line for Newbury. "We worked hard, we worked together and didn't stop until we won. I'm proud of this team and what we accomplished, being the first to win an NECC Title for the program, I couldn't be any more proud."
Strader was stellar for the Mariners, denying two separate breakaway chances of the Nighthawks. Exceus had a chance early in the second half, but his attempt to beat Strader between the legs was denied by the goalie.
Nighthawks freshman Richard Silva (Pompano Beach, Fla.) had a breakaway down the right side, but his hard strike was parried away by the right hand of Strader.
Both meetings between the Nighthawks and Mariners needed overtime to decide the winner. Newbury scored in double-OT in the regular season meeting between the sides.
It's the first New England Collegiate Conference Championship in the history of the Nighthawks Program.
"It was a battle of the two best teams out there and beating the defending champions is was we worked all season for," said Head Coach Bill Maddock. "All year long we've made sure we kept our mental game and with today's game, it can be difficult, but they all stayed focus on the goal."
The Nighthawks are the sixth team in conference history to win both the Regular Season and Postseason Championship.
"The job is finally done. It's been a long time coming for this program," said Maddock. "To be a former player and alumni at Newbury and to come back here and help guide these guys to a championship, I can't thank these guys enough for what they did and this game and this championship is about them.
The Mariners finish the season at 9-9, while the Nighthawks enter the NCAA Tournament at 11-4-4.
The NCAA Men's Soccer Division III Selection Show will take place at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5, exclusively on NCAA.com.