Men’s Soccer Fall in Sweet Sixteen
By Will Murphy ’23
The Providence College Men’s Soccer team capped off another successful season with their second trip to the Sweet Sixteen in the past three years.
The Friars began their run in the tournament against their regional rival Marist College at their home field, Chapey Field, on Thursday, Nov. 18. The Friars controlled the game from the start, able to muster more than double of Marist’s shot attempts. In the 40th minute, midfielder Christopher Roman ’22 pushed the Friars ahead with a goal that was assisted by Armaan Wilson ’24 and Gil Santos ’22.
In the 67th minute, the Friars were afforded some breathing room after Wilson was able to find the back of the net. Gevork Diarbian ’24 was credited with the assist that helped expand the lead to 2-0.
From there the Friars were able to maintain their lead the rest of the way, pushing their NCAA Tournament record at home to 7-0.
That win moved the team on to the second round where they would face last year’s reigning NCAA Tournament Champion, Marshall University, which had been awarded the No. 14 seed in the tournament by the selection committee. That game was played at Hoops Family Field, in Huntington, WV, the home field of the Marshall University Thundering Herd.
It was a rather evenly matched game, with each team creating opportunities for four shots on goal, with neither team being able to find much separation.
Marshall’s best scoring opportunity in the first half came when Alexander Adjetey broke free and only had the Friar’s goalkeeper, Lukas Burns ’24, to beat, but Adjetey was unable to capitalize, sailing his shot harmlessly over the goal.
The Friar’s best chance in the first half came from a corner in the 18th minute after a deflection led to a loose ball landing at the feet of Miguel Candela ’22, who fired a shot from the top of the box that was saved by Marshall’s keeper, Oliver Semmle.
After a tightly contested first half, the teams headed into halftime in a deadlock at zero. Marshall came out of the break hot, and in the 56th minute, they were able to find separation from the Friars. The goal came on a cross from Milo Yossef after a counterattack, which was finished by Adjetey.
It appeared as though the Friars were able to pull themselves level in the 74th minute when Brendan McSorley ’24 was able to knock in a deflection, but the goal was waved off as McSorley was flagged for offsides.
Momentum then began to swing in the direction of the Friars, as they were able to earn four corner kicks in eight minutes after that.
Finally, in the 85th minute, the Friars were able to break through and level the game at 1-1 on a goal from Candela.
Candela received a pass from Santos at the top of the box and was able to perfectly place his shot inside the right post. That would be the last scoring opportunity in regulation, and the two squads entered overtime even 1-1.
The first overtime period came and went quietly without many scoring opportunities. Just three minutes into the second overtime period the Friars were able to break free and score the game-winning golden goal. The goal was scored on a diving header from Davis Smith ’22 off a beautiful feed from McSorley. This goal pushed the Friars through to their second Sweet Sixteen in the past three years, where they would face their Big East rival, the third-seeded Georgetown University.
The Friars played Georgetown University Sunday, Nov. 28, at Georgetown’s home field in Washington, D.C. It was the third meeting of the season for Providence and Georgetown, with the Friars winning 3-0 in the first meeting, but dropping the second meeting 2-1 in overtime of the Big East championship.
Both teams were held without a shot for the first 32 minutes of action until the 33rd minute when McSorley fired a shot wide left of the net. Shortly after that in the 36th minute, the Hoyas pulled ahead when Dante Polvara collected a loose ball and rifled it into the back of the net. Georgetown’s advantage would remain at one through halftime and into the beginning of the second half.
In the 53rd minute Georgetown was able to get some breathing room thanks to a goal from Marlon Tabora off of a cross from Stefan Stojanovich. Tabora added two more goals in the 58th and 64th minutes respectively, to expand Georgetown’s lead to four and achieve a hat trick.
The Friars avoided the shutout thanks to a goal in the 88th minute scored by McSorley. The goal was assisted by Candela and Diarbian. The game finished with a 4-1 score, putting an end to the Friar’s successful postseason campaign that saw them notch an impressive upset win over last year’s defending National Champion, Marshall University.
Men’s Soccer Loses Heartbreaker
Friars Fall to Georgetown in OT
By Joe Quirk ’23
The Providence College Men’s Soccer Team suffered a brutal and unfortunate loss in overtime of the final game in the 2021 Big East Tournament. The Friars lost to the nationally ranked No. 7 Georgetown University Hoyas with mere minutes remaining in overtime after a costly turnover in the Friars’ end of the pitch which allowed the Hoyas to put in the game winner. The victory must feel good for Georgetown as just over a month ago the Friars beat the Hoyas at Chapey Field 3-0 when Georgetown was still ranked No. 1 in the country.
The Friars were one of the best teams in the country this season, let alone the Big East. They finished the regular season with a fantastic 10-4-4 record and a 5-2-3 record in conference play. These were enough to get the team a bye into the Big East semifinals which were held this past Thursday, Nov. 11. The Big East tournament this year was hosted at Georgetown University, and the Friars played both their games on the eventual champions’ home pitch. In their semifinal matchup, the Friars hosted the Butler University Bulldogs and won with a score of 2-0. It was a close game for both squads until 64’ when the first Friar goal was netted by Brendan McSorley ’24. Luis Garcia ’23 was credited with the assist on McSorley’s goal. Just about a minute later, at 65’, the Friars added to their lead when Gevork Diarbian ’24 scored with an assist from Simon Triantafillou ’22. The game featured only two yellow cards, evenly distributed amongst the two teams. However, the Friars were responsible for 18 fouls, double that of Butler. Despite that, PC outshot Butler 9-8 (Providence only put up three shots in the second half, two of which found their way in the net). After the game, PC goaltender Lukas Burns ’24, who stopped a big penalty kick at 56’, was asked about the “DNA” of this Providence team. “Since the first day I’ve been here, it’s fighting to the very last minute, working together as a team, we’re a very blue-collar team and we just fight,” said Burns after his shutout performance.
The victory punched Providence’s ticket to the Big East Tournament final game to determine the champion of the conference. The game, played at Georgetown University this past Sunday, Nov. 11, ended in a much more heartbreaking fashion for the Friars. Burns’ comments from after the previous game would prove true, as the Friars scrapped with the previously four-time champion Hoyas all the way until the game-winner in overtime. After a half of scoreless play, Georgetown would score first, putting the Hoyas up 1-0 in the 51st minute. It would be another 34 minutes until the Friars would knot things up at 1 apiece. At 84’, Brendan McSorely ’24 would score again for the Friars, getting assisted by Paulo Lima ’22 and Gil Santos ’22. In overtime, Georgetown’s Stefan Stojanovic netted his second of the day, getting the ball in the Friars’ offensive zone after a bad turnover. The Hoyas crushed the Friars in shots, outshooting PC 16-9, although PC had more saves, 7-3. The game had nine yellow cards, a far cry from the two-card game the Friars saw in the semifinals.
This is the fifth time in program history that PC has been the runner up in the Big East tournament, and it is also the fifth championship for Georgetown. The Friars had two team members named to the Big East All-Tournament team, goaltender Lukas Burns and forward Brendan McSorley, both of whom played tremendously and in big moments for the Friars throughout the tournament. McSorley was a big offensive spark for the Friars for the duration of the tournament and helped spur the offense to produce when it needed to. As for Burns, he was phenomenal, netting seven saves in the final and having a shutout performance in the semifinal. The only goals Burns allowed in the championship game were a penalty kick, which is a tough save, and the game winner, which was on a tough breakaway play from directly in front of the net. The Friars probably would not have made it as far in the tournament without these two.
The next move for the Friars after an incredible season is hosting Marist College on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 7:00 p.m. The Friars did not have an automatic bid from winning the conference, and their loss against Georgetown prevented them from securing a bye into the second round, but the team was able to at least gain home field for their first-round game. Marist entered the MAAC Tournament as the one-seed in their conference and seized an automatic bid to the NCAAs, defeating Rider University on penalty kicks. While Marist is from a weaker conference, they played a competitive out-of-conference schedule in the beginning of the year. Just like the Friars, the Red Foxes fell to the nationally ranked University of New Hampshire 2-1 in the beginning of the season. They defeated St. John’s University 1-0, the same scoreline that the Friars won by when the two sides played in early October. On paper, these scorelines suggest that Thursday night’s game will be a competitive one. This would likely be the only home matchup for the Friars, as the winner of their matchup against the Red Foxes will need to make a trip to West Virginia to square off against Marshall University, who are the NCAA Tournament defending champions, on Sunday, Nov. 21.
Men’s Soccer Excitement for Things to Come
Interview With Big East Offensive Player of the Week Davis Smith
Justin Bishop ’24
The Providence College Men’s Soccer team has been competing at a high level all season, which has earned them the No. 24 team ranking in the entire nation. Moving to 6-1-1 overall and 2-0-0 against teams in the Big East conference after beating Xavier 3-2 on Saturday, the team is looking forward to the next half of the season.
To recap how the team got here, they started the season with a 3-0 upset win at Fordham University, at the time ranked no. 23. Two goals from midfielder Luis Garcia ’23, one from graduate student Davis Smith ‘21, and two saves from goalkeeper Lukas Burns ’24 were the keys to the victory. One of Garcia’s goals was a rocket of a corner kick that the Rams goalkeeper could not handle and deflected off him.
The following match against St. Peter’s was no match at all because the Friars took care of the Peacocks with a dominating 6-2 win for the home opener.
Six different Friars scored and Smith ‘21, Kevin Vang ’22, along with Gevork Diarbian ’24 each had one goal and one assist in the routing of St. Peter’s. The combination of the first two games for Smith earned him the honor of being named the Big East Offensive Player of the Week.
After starting out the season with two straight wins, the team traveled to Durham, New Hampshire to take on the then-ranked no. 14 University of New Hampshire.
The Friars fell to the Wildcats 2-1 where Paulo Lima ’22 cut the lead in half late in the 86th minute on a penalty kick. The team showed grit and never gave up even when they were down two with less than 15 minutes to play.
The team then went on to tie the following game against cross-state rival, the University of Rhode Island, 1-1 with a goal from Diarbian.
Rough play from both PC and URI, as one would almost expect in a match featuring these two rivals, allowed for the game to get out of the Friars’ control.
Smith received two yellow cards which kicked him out of the game and prevented him from playing the next game as well. There were 10 yellow cards given out throughout the match, and URI was at fault for 18 fouls in the game compared to PC’s 19.
That, however, was not the story of this game. The real story was the 12 saves from PC’s sophomore goalkeeper, Burns.
Burns stood on his head and made saves that even a veteran senior goalkeeper would have a tough time making. The sophomore’s performance in the previous two games, holding the No. 14 ranked team to only two goals and making 12 saves on 13 shots against a cross-state rival, earned him the Big East Goalkeeper of the Week.
The team has won the past four games since the tie at URI thanks to two players who have raised their game to the next level. These two players are the aforementioned graduate student out of Amherst, MA, Davis Smith, and Brendan McSorley ’24 out of Randolph, NJ.
Both Smith and McSorley are huge offensive components of the team.
McSorley leads the team in goals and points, and Smith leads the team with four assists and is second in goals and points. However, Smith holds all these statistics while playing one fewer game than McSorley, which earned him the title of Big East Offensive Player of the Week this past week for a second time this season.
I was able to sit down with the now two-time Big East Offensive Player of the Week on Thursday to get an inside look on how well the team has felt so far and to get some insight into how they are preparing for the rest of the season.
Davis Smith ‘21 transferred from the University of Massachusetts Amherst two years ago to PC. When asked about the biggest change when arriving in the Big East from the Atlantic 10, Smith said, “The pace of play is definitely faster and the quality of the players around me are [sic] a lot better than when I was at UMass.”
Smith ‘22 mentioned that he struggled to adapt to how fast the game had become after playing in the Atlantic 10. He said that he used the COVID-19-shortened season to train with his brother down in Texas and grinded every day, trying to make himself better.
The training seems to have paid off with the way he affects and produces in every game in which he plays. Davis said that it is nice to have recognition, referring to being ranked no. 24 in the country and his personal accolades. However, that is not the goal of this season, he says.
“The goal of this season (right now) is to win the Big East regular season and the Big East tournament,” says Smith. “We have just as good a team, if not better than the 2019 team and I think we can really go far.”
The 2019 team, at the end of the season, was ranked no. 14 in the nation and went to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament before a heartbreaking one-goal loss to no. 2-ranked Clemson.
Smith said the team only looks to the upcoming game and not down the road, but he revealed excitement for the Georgetown game at home on Oct. 13. Not only is it a matchup of the top two teams in the conference, but Georgetown is ranked no. 1 in the nation as of Sept. 26.
Smith also praised the play of his goalkeeper Lukas Burns, saying that Burns’ Goalkeeper of the Week award was well deserved and that Smith knows his teammate will keep playing at a high level.
He also commented on how well Brendan McSorley has been playing and hopes they can keep the momentum going as they only play Big East teams for the rest of the season. “Every game in the Big East is a grind and there is no reason why we can’t beat any team in the country,” Smith says.
The Friars resume playing at Marquette University in Milwaukee on Friday, Oct. 2.
Friar Freshman Off To Hot Start
Diarbian Right at Home in Friartown
By Thomas Zinzarella ’21
Coming into the fall season, Providence College Men’s Soccer player Gevork Diarbian ’24 did not know what to expect. Colleges around the country were still attempting to figure out a safe way for fall sports to occur. As a conference with member schools spanning from Rhode Island to Nebraska, the Big East Conference ultimately decided to follow suit with other conferences by moving all fall sports to the spring season.
“The freshman guys, we were all prepared and we couldn’t wait,” Diarbian stated. “I remember we had a couple of practices; they were telling us games are coming up and then we hear ‘practice is canceled’…it was really hard. There were some moments where I was like ‘Are we going to get the chance to play?’”
When play finally resumed in February, Diarbian instantly made a major impact on the field. He scored a goal in each of his first three games, including a double overtime game-winner against Big East foe Villanova University. Across this stretch, the Friars went a perfect 3-0 to start the year with wins over the University of Rhode Island, the University of Connecticut, and Villanova.
Diarbian collected seven points in his first three collegiate games and has helped PC rise in the national rankings. The Friars came in at No. 13 in the United Soccer Coaches College Rankings last week following a draw at home against No. 5 Georgetown University. Since then, PC has dropped their last two matches.
Diarbian’s performance caught the attention of other Big East schools when he was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll on March 1. He was then tabbed the Big East Freshman of the Week the following week, too.
Diarbian’s accolades are representative of his teammate’s success as well. Goalie Rimi Olatunji ’22RS has been honored twice with Big East Goalkeeper of the Week after several impressive shutout performances. Christopher Roman ’22 was named Big East Offensive Player of the Week on Feb. 22 following his three-point showing in PC’s season opener.
It is never easy to please all fans, especially after the performances that Diarbian has put up, but for him, it is the mindset for the future that keeps him going. “For me, always in my mind, I just tell myself to keep going and keep going…the most important thing is us as a team, to stay together and to work as a group to get better.” With this competitive mentality, Diarbian looks primed to continue to reach not only his goals, but the team’s as well.
In high school, Diarbian wore the coveted number 10 jersey. When he arrived on campus over the summer, the number was available, yet, he was not sure which number was going to be on the back of his jersey. Former captain Danny Griffin ’20 had worn number 10 for the previous four years prior. “As a freshman, it’s an amazing feeling. Ever since I was a freshman in high school, I always dreamed of starting and wearing the number 10 for PC.” He had some big shoes to fill, but so far he is doing so very successfully.
Hailing from Cranston, RI, Diarbian is very familiar with New England soccer. He played a number of years for Bayside FC (the state’s premier soccer club), before starting at La Salle Academy, just down the road from PC. Then, he was a part of the New England Revolution Youth Academy prior to enrolling at PC.
His older brother, Azad Diarbian ’22, attends all of the Friars’ home games along with his parents and other family members. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. Without them [my family] I wouldn’t be where I am today…just seeing them watching me play, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Diarbian.
Diarbian is one of two local players on the men’s soccer roster from Rhode Island, the other being another Cranston native and fellow Revolution Youth Academy alum Kevin Vang ’22.
“You know, for me, it’s very good to play with Kevin. He’s a great player, a good kid, and I feel I have a good connection with him on the field. For example, he assisted me against URI.” On that play, Vang sent a gorgeous through-ball to a cutting Diarbian in the box. Diarbian then beat the keeper with a shot to the top right corner.
“I love to play with him,” said Diarbian. “He’s great on the ball and very easy to play with because we have known each other for a very long time.”
Diarbian also pointed out just how different of an experience it is to play at the college level compared to the youth academy ranks. “It’s way different,” Diarbian admitted. “When you were there, it felt like a job…you were there every single day training Monday through Friday and then games on the weekend. It was always traveling.”
The Revolution Youth Academy would travel all over, competing against fellow Major League Soccer youth academy teams. “The competition…you’re playing the best kids in the country. It was good for me, though, to be in that environment. I feel like it helped me as well to show what I can do but also what the other academies do.”
It mirrors a similar experience to that of men’s soccer head coach Craig Stewart. Stewart spent a number of years as a youth academy player for big English football clubs in Sunderland AFC, Newcastle United, and Everton FC.
One figure Diarbian looks up to as a role model is PC men’s soccer legend Julian Gressel ’17. Gressel was an All-American at PC in 2016 and led the Friars to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals before they fell to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in double overtime. Gressel currently plays in the MLS with DC United.
Diarbian hopes to one day follow in the footsteps of Gressel and fulfill his own dream of playing in Europe for his favorite football club: FC Barcelona.