The assignment for Denver Pioneers men’s soccer was a very simple one – either win or tie at Purdue Fort Wayne in the final Summit League regular season game and DU would advance to the Summit League Tournament in Denver next weekend. But if DU lost, the Denver season would be over and DU would be humiliated with a 5th place league finish (and four other Summit teams above them would play on their field in Denver next weekend).
Fortunately for the Pioneers, they passed the test, whipping the Mastodons, 3-1, outshooting Purdue Fort Wayne 34-9, including 20-5 on goal. The Denver victory also secured the Pioneers a three seed in the Summit Tournament next weekend. Should Denver win the next two league tourney games on its home field, it can win the Summit League title and the accompanyng NCAA tourney autobid.
Denver was led by Junior Preston Judd (Henderson, Nev.) who scored twice inside the opening 21 minutes, and the Pioneers never looked back.
Judd’s multi-goal match was the fourth of his collegiate career and his first as a Pioneer, while sophomore centerback Callum Stretch (Los Angeles, Calif.) scored his first collegiate goal to help secure the vital twin for the Pioneers.
With the win, Crimson and Gold now will play in the 4 p.m. MT semifinal against either Western Illinois or Oral Roberts next Thursday.
The Pioneers were control for basically the entire 90 minutes, taking eight of the 10 corner kicks in the 90 minutes.
Denver opened the scoring in the ninth minute on a strike from over 30 yards from Judd, knocking the ball into an open net after getting the first touch to the ball in a battle with Purdue Fort Wayne’s centerback. After touching the ball by his defender, Judd looked up and saw the goalkeeper well out of his net before accurately passing the ball inside the far post to give Denver the lead.
Purdue Fort Wayne equalized in the 15th minute from the penalty spot as Nemanja Gvozdic put his spot kick into the back of the net to level the score at 1-1.
Stretch quickly put the Pioneers back in-front in the 20th minute, blasting a right-footed strike from outside of 30 yards into the upper-90 to restore Denver’s one-goal advantage — a goal that would be the game-winner.
Judd’s second doubled Denver’s advantage at 3-1 in the 21st minute, a curled effort from outside the box that was assisted by freshman Aidan O’Toole (The Hills, Texas) and sophomore winger Stefan DeLeone (Fort Collins, Colo.). O’Toole’s assist marked the first point of his collegiate career, while DeLeone earned his first helper of the campaign and the fourth of his two-year Pioneer career.
Denver’s second and third goal came just 1:42 apart, the 15th fastest consecutive goals in Denver’s Division I history. The WAC’s leader in goals a year ago, Judd, now has six goals in the 2019 campaign and 28 for his career.
The Pioneers will host the 2019 Summit League Men’s Soccer Championship next weekend. Third-seeded Denver will play in the second semifinal, scheduled to kickoff at 4 p.m. MT, against either Oral Roberts or Western Illinois.