Barry men’s soccer wins NCAA Division II national championship

Barry men’s soccer made history on Saturday, as the program claimed its first NCAA Division II national championship by defeating West Chester University in comeback fashion, 2-1.

The match was a sort-of home game for the West Chester Rams, as the Pennsylvania-based program only had to travel cross-state to Highmark Stadium, home to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC of the USL. It showed early on, as Rams forward Jason Pixley headed in a corner.

Barry would get opportunities in the first and second halves, but it wouldn’t be until the 78th minute that James Kirkham was able to take a Francisco Greco cross and beat West Chester keeper Will Marshall and knot the game. Just six minutes later, Barry would take the lead for good when Stephen Kosmala would attempt an audactious low cross that came to a rest in the back-left corner of the net.

“It was a free kick. I’m not usually on them, to be honest. But I just thought, with this surface, with the weather, it’s quite slippery,” Kosmala told after the game. “So I just thought that hitting the target was the most important thing.”

History of heartbreak

Barry reached the Division II final in 2000, but lost in heartbreaking fashion off a header from Cal State Dominguez Hills’ Victor Guerrero in the 139th minute (the match was in its fourth overtime).

“It’s hard to find the words right now, because I just want to explode,” Barry head coach Steve McCrath said after the match. “We finally exorcised some demons that were sitting around for 18 years. We had some alumni who were in that game in the stands and that’s what this program is all about: family.”

It’s the first national championship for the men’s program, and the first NCAA men’s soccer title of any kind for any school in Miami-Dade County since FIU dominanted Division II in the early 1980s, peaking with titles in 1982 and 1984. The Panthers did reach the Division I final in 1996 but lost to St. John’s.

Florida National University, an NAIA independent program, claimed the USCAA men’s Division 1 title last month, defeating Bryant & Stratton University, 1-0.

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