WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Howard University rudely shattered a dream Saturday, romping over Penn State's soccer team, 8-0, and eliminating the Lions from the NCAA playoffs.
The Bisons (13-0) were held scoreless through the first period but erupted for four goals in the second and the romp was on. Howard now advances to the NCAA semifinals to be played December 28 in Miami Beach.
The setting was a curious one or a national quarter-final match. Howard's field sloped away at their sideline and was nearly stripped bare of grass. Its team did not show up until 1:05, five minutes after the scheduled starting time.
When it did show, Howard proved capable of some exceptional soccer. The first quarter, however, saw the Lions more than hold their own as neither team could gain a decided advantage.
"I think if we had scored in that first quarter it might have been a different game," said State's Jim Taylor.
"But," he added, "we didn't."
The Bisons took the scoring initiative early in the second quarter, when All-American Keith Aqui took a pass from Alvin Henderson, another All-American, and bumped out State's Tom Kehan. Aqui then beat goalie Gary MacMath for the score.
"I guess that cheap goal, which was really a defensive mistake, hurt us," said Taylor.
In addition to that early goal, the Lions were also hurt by Howard's speed and ball handling ability.
"They were all really fast and they all could handle the ball well," said Andy Rymarczuk, the Lions' leading scorer this season. "That's what hurt us."
Taylor concurred. "They all seemed so fast and quick," he said. "It didn't seem to matter who it was that was running by you."
The Bisons knocked in three more goals that period, two coming off the foot of Henderson. The Lions, who had not given up more than three goals in any game this season, had surrendered four in one quarter.
"We just ran them into the ground, that's all," said Henderson afterwards. "After those first goals, it was easy for us to score."
Howard seemed to let down very little in the second half, despite having a four-goal lead.
"They just broke it open in the second half," said Rymarczuk. "They just put it all together and beat us."
Aqui seemed to lead the all-foreign squad. In addition to garnering three goals and two assists Saturday, he also demonstrated superb speed and ball-handling throughout the game.
"He was especially fast," said Taylor. "No one else I've played could get by you that fast. He's the best I've played against."
Aqui was just one part of a well-balanced team, however, as the Lions emphasized.
"Their whole team is good," said Rymarczuk. "They're the best we've seen, they're much better than Penn." Penn was a 2-1 victim of the Lions in Tuesday's match, a match which sent State to the quarterfinals.
"Yes, they're good enough to go all the way," said Rymarczuk, in reference to the Bisons' chances at the Orange Bowl.
Taylor, however, said, "They're definitely better than Penn, but I think they'll probably get beaten."
For Taylor, as well as for seniors Joe Griffin, Nick Szumylo and Brent Buddenhagen, it was the last collegiate soccer game.
"I think it was a great season," said Taylor. "We made it to the tournament and were one of the top eight teams in the country, so I still feel it was a great season."