Indiana Daily Student

Connecticut wins 2nd NCAA title

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After Connecticut defender Chris Gbandi scored his game-winning goal in Sunday's final, he sprinted to the sidelines of Ericsson Stadium and pulled his white jersey over his face to display a white undershirt with a Superman logo.\nGbandi, voted the Hermann Trophy winner Saturday, entered the men's NCAA soccer final as the collegiate national player of the year. He left the arena as a hero, as Connecticut (20-3-2) shutout Creighton (22-4) 2-0 for the Huskies' second NCAA title since 1981.\n"We allowed only one goal in the NCAA tournament," defender Max Zieky said when asked about Gbandi. "He's a real gifted defender. He's the man."\nIn the 16th minute, Gbandi set up a direct free kick from 24 yards out and blasted a low shot with his left foot. The ball flew past Creighton's wall of defenders and a diving goalkeeper for Gbandi's sixth goal of the season.\nSeventy minutes later, forward Darin Lewis sealed the victory with his 10th goal of the season. He received an assist from forward David Castellanos on the far wing after a quick Connecticut counterattack. Castellanos was left unmarked in Creighton's defensive third and got a long pass from midfielder Rui Fernandes.\nAfter he scored, Lewis ran to where Gbandi had celebrated, and laid with his arms outstretched on the first big "T" in the painted word "Connecticut" on the sidelines. Gbandi joined him and pumped his fists at the crowd.\nDuring the match, Connecticut often had quick counterattacks after Creighton defended its goal. Creighton goalkeeper Mike Gabb made four saves, including a sliding deflection off his feet when forward David Castellanos shot from close range after receiving a cross pass from forward Lindon Pecorelli on the far wing.\nWhile Gabb had to stop four shots on goal, Connecticut's defenders often halted Creighton's offense 20 yards from the goal and limited Bluejay All-American forward Brian Mullan to no shots.\n"Their defense had a lot of people behind the ball. UCONN's two center backs were very tough. We had chances, but weren't able to put it away," Mullan said.\nThroughout the match, Creighton drew direct free kicks and had numerous headers and kicks that narrowly missed the goal. In the 26th minute, the Bluejays set up a direct free kick on the 10-yard line after forward Keith Sawarynski was fouled. Creighton forward Mike Tranchilla knocked the ball into the goalkeeper's hands. In the 74th minute, Sawarynski trapped the ball at the front of an open net, but headed the ball just wide.\nThe match marked Creighton's first scoreless loss of the season, and Connecticut goalkeeper Bryheem Hancock's 15th shutout -- a Huskies' school record.\nAfter the win, Gbandi, a junior, said he plans to talk with his father about leaving school early to play professionally. His father supports his career and joked with Gbandi about the Superman shirt he flaunted Sunday.\n"It came up big (Sunday)," Gbandi said.

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