While most of his teammates were indifferent to where their third and potential fourth round NCAA Tournament match would be, West Chester native AJ Marcucci was ecstatic to learn he’d be getting a homecoming with his Connecticut College teammates at Swarthmore College.
“It’s great coming home,” Marcucci said after the Camels topped Swarthmore 1-0 in overtime at Clothier Field to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in program history. “It’s very exciting to see all my friends and family come out because as you go to Boston to play against Tufts or Amherst you see all their friends and family. Getting the win here especially against a Pennsylvania team is... I was very happy, I’ll say that.”
Marcucci, named the top goalkeeper in NCAA Division III last season, also had some former teammates and opponents on the field at Swarthmore from his high school and club days with Penn Fusion Academy, including his high school captain at Episcopal Academy, Zach Viscusi.
Viscusi, an Aston, Pa. native, had a chance in the box after a good run forward in the second half but opted to try to leave it off to a teammate instead of testing his former teammate.
“It definitely registered that it was him, but at the end of the day, if he took the shot, I wanted to make the saves,” Marcucci said. “It was a quick register of Zach and he’s a righty and he cut in, and we baited for the shot and then he tried to pass, which he rarely does, so I was happy with that.”
The junior, who trained with Bethlehem Steel last summer and played in the NPSL with West Chester United, made four saves on the day but for all the Garnets possession they had on the day didn’t see a ton of clear chances to break the deadlock. A backup to Philadelphia Union homegrown goalkeeper Matt Freese when they were both at Episcopal Academy, Marcucci made his biggest stop in the 87th minute when Woojin Shin ripped a shot bound for the bottom left hand corner of the net and he dove to knock it away.
This was Swarthmore’s biggest chance to grab a late winner in regulation but AJ Marcucci was there to deny it and send the game to OT pic.twitter.com/Qo3HjZPCL5— Matt Ralph (@MattRalph_tBG) November 24, 2019
“I think that AJ has really matured as a player, and obviously being an All-American, he’s phenomenal,” Viscusi said. “He showed that today, saving shots that I think a lot of other teams we’ve come up against wouldn’t have saved or held onto even, and he’s able to do both.”
The visitors got the golden goal somewhat unexpectedly when a a cross from the left flank from Anthony Aquando made its way through traffic and Steve Yeonas got enough of a touch on the ball to get it to hit off the right post and trickled over the line.
“At that point, I was exhausted, but our philosophy has been all season to just stay engaged the entire time,” Yeonas said post-game. “So I made that run and it just happened to work out for us.”
A lively crowd of 1,474 buzzing throughout gave the Sweet 16 the atmosphere deserving of the occasion for a program that survived the opening weekend of the tournament for the first time since 2012 advancing on PKs to knock out ranked opponents in back-to-back games. All this for a squad that missed out on the Centennial Conference Tournament and earned an at-large bid on its resume alone.
“I just can’t be more proud of a group of individuals that I’ve worked with in my 27 year plus career as a coach and as a player,” Swarthmore head coach Eric Wagner said. “I’m just absolutely overwhelmed with how amazing these guys are and how hard they worked day in and day out and today doesn’t change that for a second.”
Marcucci and Connecticut, which also has starting midfielder and Wilmington, Del. native Lorenzo Bocchetti on the team, face defending national champions Tufts today at 3 p.m. at Clothier Field with a trip to the final four on the line.