All Micky Blythe could do was smile and shake his head.
The Medaille men's soccer coach felt his squad deserved better than a 4-0 loss to Penn State Behrend in the Allegany Mountain Collegiate Conference championship on Saturday at Junker Field, but he still had to swallow the result.
"I think we've played well," Blythe said as the Lions accepted their trophy. "It might sound ridiculous at 4-nil, but I think we've done OK. We've hit the crossbar and post four times, and numerous penalty calls were not given tonight."
Anthony Crivelli scored the game's first three goals for Behrend, and a late penalty kick from Sean Gallagher completed the scoring. The Lions advance to the NCAA Division III National Tournament after wrapping up their fifth conference championship in the last 12 years.
A two-minute spurt at the tail end of the first half summed up the Mavericks' frustrating afternoon. Dribbling under pressure in the Behrend 18-yard box, Medaille's Nick DuMond beat his defender with a Cruyff turn, then fizzed a left-footed shot off the far post. The rebound stayed in play, and Mavs left back Prince Saysay was first to it - but he toe-poked his shot off the same post.
Roughly a minute later, Medaille's Mick Lennox curled a right-footed strike toward the upper right corner, only to hear a loud clang off the upright. On the day, the Mavs uncorked 21 shots but forced a save from Behrend goalkeeper Chris Ralph on only six of them.
Lennox, Blythe's fiery captain from Scotland, was blunt in his assessment.
"It's hard to take at the end of the day, but we just have to deal with it," Lennox said. "We didn't take our chances, and that's soccer."
Behrend had beaten Medaille, 1-0, in the regular season finale at the same location - which dropped the Mavs to the second seed and denied them a chance for home-field advantage.
"We played better tonight than we did in the 1-nil defeat," Blythe insisted. "That one hurts more because we haven't hosted - I think if we host, we win this game. You know going to Behrend is going to be very difficult, and they took their chances and we didn't."
AN EARLY HOLE: Inside of 10 minutes, it became clear that the Mavs would have to chase this match. A strong sliding tackle by Mick Lennox - awkward in that it was facing his own goal - popped into space behind the Medaille defense, where Crivelli anticipated the bounce and calmly placed his low shot into the right side-netting.
Crivelli, who entered the match with a team-high eight goals, embraced his good luck on his second, as two sharp cuts past defenders created enough space to hit a shot from 16 yards - the ball caromed off a defender's foot and sailed over the head of Medaille keeper Brian Arcara.
The sophomore striker's natural hat-trick goal was the prettiest of the day - Lions midfielder Matt Baleno sent a searching long ball into space behind the Mavs defense. Sprinting between Medaille's two center backs, Crivelli shielded off the first-arriving defender and fooled Arcara to the near post.
"It's tough to see any team counterattack with that much success," Lennox said. "I know Behrend are a good team and they have talent going on the break, and it just hurts knowing we had so much possession and so much more shots on goal."
SENIORS CLOSE CAREERS: Medaille's Brian Arcara, Prince Saysay and Mick Lennox have all exhausted their collegiate eligibility. While he's listed on the team website as a senior, winger Jackson Hamilton may return for another year, Blythe mentioned.
"I feel like I've had a good career - I've traveled a little bit and I've gone places," reflected Lennox after the match. "I haven't covered myself in great glory, but I'm happy to be a part of this team, it's been a very good team, and I'm happy to be here with Coach Blythe, and I think these boys have a very strong future ahead of them."
EVEN BRIGHTER FUTURE: "I thought we had enough this year - I will say we thought it would be next year, by the time we started moving forward," Blythe remembers. "I think we're ahead of schedule, but I thought we should have done better tonight.
"We lose three lads from this program - we keep about 25 - and there will be another group of players coming in next year. We're very excited for the direction that this program is headed, despite a very poor result tonight, no question about it."
Medaille's starting XI: Brian Arcara; Levi Bojang, Sam Beesley, Anthony Marafioti, Prince Saysay; Michael Lennox; James Lang, Mitchell Ali, Mo Hussein; Nick DuMond, Lachlan Wilkinson
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who ate his fill of Chick-Fil-A, at firstname.lastname@example.org