RICHMOND, NOV. 4 -- The University of Richmond soccer team, which had its first winning season five years ago, earned its first-ever bid to the NCAA tournament today with a 1-0 victory over top-seeded George Mason in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game.
Despite the loss, the Patriots (14-5-3) are expected to receive an at-large bid to the 28-team national tournament when the pairings are announced Monday morning. They have made five trips to the NCAAs in six years.
"I would think we're in, but you just don't know," Patriots Coach Gordon Bradley said.
Without the automatic bid, George Mason's strongest claim for a bid is its strength of schedule. Three of its four losses were to top 20 teams (Evansville, South Carolina, William and Mary) and two ties were against top 10 teams Virginia and Rutgers.
Freshman striker George Dearnaley scored in the 43rd minute to give the third-seeded Spiders (16-5-1) their first victory over George Mason in 16 matches. The Patriots beat the Spiders, 3-0, here 11 days ago in their CAA regular season finale.
This is Richmond's fourth winning season in 15 years.
"Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and realize where you were eight years ago," said Spiders Coach Tim O'Sullivan, moments before players dumped a cooler of water on him.
The Patriots had not allowed a goal in more than 440 minutes since a 1-0 loss to William and Mary on Oct. 20.
However, sweeper Ian Carter mistimed Jason Chandler's pass in the Patriots zone, allowing Dearnaley to get free 35 yards from the net. Goalkeeper Ricardo Leite charged the loose ball, but Dearnaley got there first and scored on a low shot at 42:45.
Getting Dearnaley or Leigh Cowlishaw, the CAA's top two scorers, in the open was exactly the situation the Spiders hoped for. Other than quick counterattacks with one of the freshman attackers on the receiving end, the Patriots controlled the flow but were unable to penetrate Richmond's clogged end.
"We had to be real tight in the back today," O'Sullivan said. "We knew we had to counter to score today, and that's how we got the goal."
The Patriots had few clear shots on net and goalie Roland Bruklis's toughest task was intercepting an occasional cross. George Mason pounded the ball toward the net for the final 15 minutes, but the only threat was Denis Hamlett's 15-yard header that sailed over the crossbar.
"We were flat, no doubt about it," Bradley said.
N.C. State 2, Virginia 1: In Durham, N.C., Dario Brose and Henry Gutierrez scored in the second half as the Wolfpack won the ACC tournament and earned a spot in the NCAA tournament.