The Miami Hurricanes left New Orleans with a pair of wins at the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic, bringing their winning streak to four.
The Canes were one of two teams to finish the weekend unbeaten and for the first time in the history of its program, the Canes have defeated four straight MCLA Division I opponents.
With a combined record of 1-20 in the past two seasons, the Canes are certainly moving in the right direction as they head towards the final stretch of their season with momentum.
The Canes began the season with three scrimmage victories but got off to a rough start in their first weekend of SELC play, dropping games to South Carolina and Florida State in Tallahassee.
In what looked to be the beginnings of another disastrous season, Miami headed to Tampa to play two pivotal SELC games.
First up was ECU and after the Canes fell behind 4-0 early, things were once again looking bleak. However, senior captain Matt Gozzi (Xavier HS; Guilford, CT) took over with three straight goals bringing the Canes back in striking distance.
After a rough start, Miami’s defense tightened up and only yielded two goals through nearly three quarters of game time. The Canes took a commanding 10-6 lead into the final two minutes, and despite conceding two late goals, came out victorious 10-8 for their first SELC win in three years. Gozzi was the team’s leading scorer, with seven points (5G, 2A).
The following day the Canes took on division rival South Florida. After the Canes had dominated the series in the past, the Bulls had won the previous two meetings including a convincing 13-4 win last season in Miami.
Once again the Canes found themselves down early and eventually went into halftime trailing 6-3. After a back-and-forth third quarter the Bulls went into the fourth quarter with an identical three goals lead by a score of 10-7.
In the past, this is when the Canes would falter and run out of gas but the 2014 Hurricanes showed a tremendous amount of heart, outscoring the Bulls 5-0 in the fourth quarter and rallying for a 12-10 victory. This was Miami’s first division win in the same three-year span.
The Canes were once again led by Matt Gozzi at the midfield (4G, 2A), who finished the weekend with an impressive 13 points. Freshman attackman Ryan Power (Byram Hills HS; Armonk, NY) also shined with five goals and an assist as the Canes offense prevailed down the stretch. The defense was anchored by sophomore goalie Andy Hook (Andover HS; Andover, MA) and his 16 saves as they held the Bulls scoreless in the final quarter.
Miami, fresh off its two milestone victories, headed to New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic with a great deal of momentum. They were set to meet UL-Lafayette and Houston, two out of conference opponents they were not familiar with.
The Canes, who have had their share of depth issues so far this season, have relied on a number of young players to contribute, starting as many as six freshmen at times this season. This weekend was no different as their trio of freshmen attackmen carried the team.
In a Saturday evening showdown with UL-Lafayette, the Canes once again found themselves trailing 4-0 early in the first quarter. After the slow start, the defense held their ground and the offense finally started to generate some momentum and Miami was able to cut the lead to 4-2 by halftime.
The Canes got off to a hot start in the second half and eventually tied the game at 5. After UL-Lafayette opened the fourth quarter with a goal, Miami scored three straight to take the lead 8-6. A late goal was not enough as the Canes withstood the furious rally to hold on for an 8-7 victory.
The Canes were led by freshman attackman Jake Werner (Wilson HS; Sinking Spring, PA) whose four goals and two assists earned him the game’s MVP.
Sunday morning the Canes took on the Cougars of Houston. For once, the Canes found themselves up early, jumping out to a 4-0 and an eventual 6-2 halftime lead. Houston rallied late, getting within two goals at 9-7, but a late goal from freshman attackman Jimmy Sexton (Simsbury HS; Simsbury, CT) sealed Miami’s fourth straight victory.
Sexton (3G) was named the game’s MVP. Werner (3G) and Power (4A) rounded out the attack’s contributions. Sophomore midfielders Harry Pearce (Milton Academy; Milton, MA) and Taylor Levy (Jensen Beach HS, North River Shores, FL) each had a pair of goals as well in the victory.
Through the win streak, Miami’s defense has been solid only conceding an average of eight goals per contest. The defense has been anchored in goal by Hook, who’s 8.6 GAA and 63.2% save percentage on the season rank eight and sixth in the SELC respectively. It has been a complete team effort this season as the defense has improved across the board, rotating as many as seven poles and relying heavily on two talented, do-it-all short stick defensive midfielders, Bryan Sutherland (Chaminade HS; Farmingdale, NY) and Richie Harrington (Xaverian Brothers HS; Milton, MA)
Miami’s final four games this season consist of division rivals UCF and Florida, as well as local Division II powerhouses Florida Gulf Coast and Palm Beach Atlantic, all familiar foes.
The Canes are poised to conclude their turnaround season with even more milestones. Miami has never had two division wins in the same season and has never defeated either of its remaining two divisional opponents.
Currently sitting at 4-2, the Canes are shooting to match or eclipse the program’s best ever record of 6-4. The Canes look to take the next step as a birth in the SELC tournament, something the program has never achieved, is still a very real possibility.
Miami returns to the field this weekend as UCF travels to Miami in what is bound to be a huge divisional showdown at 2pm on Saturday on the University of Miami campus.