CASTLETON, Vt. – The top-seeded Castleton men's soccer team advanced to the North Atlantic Conference Championship with a 2-0 victory over fourth-seeded New England College in a semifinal matchup Wednesday night at Spartan Stadium.
Castleton (11-6-2) posts its fifth consecutive shutout and remains unbeaten in conference play as the Spartans are set to host Colby-Sawyer in the title match at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. New England College finishes its season with an 11-7-2 overall mark after the loss.
Fidele Rutayisire had a hand in both goals for the Spartans, potting his seventh tally of the season in the first half and dishing off an assist on a key insurance goal in the second half. After a back-and-forth start to the match with each side firing a shot off the crossbar, Rutayisire opened the scoring at the 28:24 mark of the opening period. The sophomore received a pass from the outside before cutting inside and burying a low shot from the top of the box that caught Pilgrims' keeper Tenzin Khenrab out of position and slipped inside the left post.
Derek Blouin headed a corner kick from Jack Kingdon off the crossbar early before Panagiotis Galatas rung a lofted shot from 25 yards out that bounced off the crossbar and out of play. The Spartan defense finished the half strong with a pair of blocked shots to help preserve the 1-0 lead at halftime. Spartan keeper Aaron Parker stopped two shots in the first half, while Castleton held an 8-6 advantage in shots at the break.
The second half was a defensive battle with neither side garnering strong chances offensively. Both keepers played strong in goal to hold the score at 1-0 until Seraphin Iradukunda netted an insurance goal in the 85th minute. With just over five minutes left in regulation, Rutayisire took possession deep into Pilgrims' zone and from the top of the box sent a cross over to Iradukunda, who wound up and rifled a low shot to the back of the net. Iradukunda's team-leading 14th goal of the season proved to be the final shot on goal for either side, as the Spartans closed out the match with the 2-0 victory.
Parker finished with three saves to earn his second consecutive shutout and improve to 11-6-2 on the season. Khenrab made five saves in goal for New England College, but fell to 4-5-2 overall after the loss. The Spartans outshot New England College, 15-11, including 7-3 on goal. Castleton also held an advantage in corner kicks, 10-4, while the Spartans committed five fouls to the Pilgrims' 17.