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The Ionian

The Student News Site of Iona University

The Ionian

Underdog Broncs upset Gaels in MAAC Final

Iona hosted the MAAC Championship Game for the first time on Nov. 12th
photo courtesy of Joe D’Aloisio
Iona hosted the MAAC Championship Game for the first time on Nov. 12th

The Iona University men’s soccer team wrapped up their regular season against the Manhattan Jaspers on Nov. 1.  

Iona’s 2-0 victory did not come easy, though both teams battled back and forth in the hard-fought outing. The Gaels were not able to get any offense going in a first half that was marked by missed shots and intense defensive plays.  

In the second half, during the 56th minute, senior Aly Camara scored his fifth goal of the season to put Iona up 1-0.  

As for the defense, fellow senior Azal Dottin got the start and excelled, making two incredible saves to keep Iona on track for the victory. During one of the saves, Dottin made a spectacular diving stop on the left side of the net, stopping Gunnar Studenhofft’s shot from 12 yards out in the 63rd minute.  

Another key play of the game occurred in the 89th minute when a breakaway opportunity with a loose ball came about within the last few moments of the game. Graduate student Matias Morales gathered it and generated a play, passing to Camil Azzam Ruiz for the finishing touch.  

Iona’s 2-0 shutout over Manhattan brought their record to 11-3 in the regular season and 9-1 within the MAAC conference.  

In the semi-final round of the MAAC Championship playoffs, they faced a familiar foe in Manhattan College for their second head-to-head match of the year.  

Both teams struggled to capitalize until the 18th minute, when junior Thiago Cagna got on the scoresheet with a goal.  

It was a close game overall, with the lone goal only coming on a rebound opportunity, but the Gaels came out on top and were able to hold onto their slim 1-0 lead thanks to a stellar effort by their league-leading defensive crew. 

The Maroon and Gold were back in the MAAC Championship Game for the second straight year after falling to Quinnipiac University, 3-2, in 2022. The Gaels faced off against the Rider University Broncs this time around, a team they defeated 5-3 on Oct. 11.  

The Broncs struck early, scoring in the 35th minute. It didn’t take long for the Gaels to answer back, though, as Cagna, assisted by Azzam Ruiz, shot and hit an upper left goal in the 47th minute.  

The two teams were stuck in a 1-1 tie until the Broncs’ Babacar Diene drew blood in the 82nd minute.  

As the game wore on Iona sought an offensive chance but did not get one until a penalty opportunity seven minutes after Diene’s score. With just 18 seconds left on the clock, Azzam Ruiz stepped to the line with an opportunity to knot things up at two goals apiece. Rider’s goalkeeper, Adam Salama, stood tall in net and knocked away the shot, securing a MAAC Championship win.  

Rider’s championship win secured their sixth such feat in program history. Iona, meanwhile, failed to get the job done for the second year in a row, but performed well all season long and captured their second regular season MAAC title a few weeks back.  

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Alex Naranjo Benavides, Staff Writer

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