DePaul's Season, Mangan's Career Come to a Close
Nov. 5, 2010
STORRS, Conn. - Alex Mangan walked around and exchanged high-fives with each of his 16 teammates who had gathered in the hotel breakfast area Friday evening before departing for the biggest game of their season.
Regardless of the outcome, this was Mangan's way of acknowledging that if the end of a brilliant career was nearing, he couldn't imagine finishing up with a better group of guys.
Overcoming the odds almost seems to be a way of life at DePaul, and here were the Blue Demons battling with a steadfast conviction against No. 9 Connecticut in their BIG EAST Conference Championship opener.
It wound up being a tough way to end the season as Connecticut scored on an own goal in the 53rd minute and Tony Cascio's 10th goal of the season in the 66th minute of a 2-0 victory over DePaul.
This was the first time the Blue Demons have lost to Connecticut after defeating the Huskies in the 2007 regular season and in 2008 BIG EAST playoffs.
Connecticut (12-2-4) advances to the BIG EAST quarterfinals and will face Cincinnati (7-4-6).
On the first goal, UConn's Shawn Nicklaw had sent a cross right in front of the DePaul net. A Blue Demon defender attempting to clear the ball redirected it into the goal.
Cascio's shot came from the middle of the box after an assist from Max Wasserman.
"Losing is always tough, but especially tonight," Mangan said. "But it's a testament to the coaches and this program that the guys never gave up."
Indeed, Antonio Aguilar fired a shot from 12 yards out in the 86th minute that UConn goalkeeper Josh Ford turned away.
In the 88th minute, senior Kevin Briars fired one from the middle of the box just 15 yards away that Ford again saved.
Connecticut hasn't given up a goal at Morrone Stadium since Sept. 11.
"It had to end sometime," Mangan said. "I'll be the first to say I'm not a great soccer player and never have been.
"But I have a big heart. I hope these younger guys saw my heart. I left a piece of it on the field tonight, and left a piece with them."
DePaul coach Craig Blazer certainly knows the legacy Mangan is leaving behind for his freshman-laded program.
"Alex Mangan is a warrior who showed great leadership," Blazer said. "He is a guy who totally maximized his potential.
"Alex and the four other seniors---Willy Lara, Andre Gutierrez, Charlie Mancuso and Kevin Briars---they contributed so much in making our program better. Now, the challenge is for the younger guys to follow up Mangan and the seniors."
Sophomore goalkeeper John Michael Kulnig is ready to become one of the leaders of this next generation of DePaul men's soccer. Kulnig made several outstanding saves in holding an explosive Connecticut offense to one goal of its own making.
Perhaps the best save was stopping a Huskie two-on-one breakaway in the 83rd minute.
"I knew the Connecticut guy was going to cross it over, but I just didn't know when," said Kulnig, who made five saves. "When the pass came, it was me against No. 23 Mamadou Diouf (seven shots, three on goal).
"I just stood him up and made the save."
Kulnig went over and hugged a disconsolate Mangan after the game as DePaul finished with a record of 4-10-5.
"The best memory of my career was becoming Red Division champion in 2007 when we were picked to finish in last place," Mangan said. "We also made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time.
"But right up there with that memory was the Rutgers game last week when we hadn't won in five weeks and hadn't won on the road. All these guys stepped up, we won and we kept our streak of BIG EAST playoff appearances alive.
"I wouldn't want to end my career with anyone else but these young guys."
NOTES: Alex Mangan's 26 career goals ties him for fifth all-time in DePaul men's soccer history with Cedric Thompson (1992-95)... Mangan's 56 points ties him for seventh all-time with Thompson... Mangan had 13 game-winning goals in his career... Mangan and Antonio Aguilar combined to score 11 of the 15 DePaul goals this season... that duo also accounted for 26 of the team's 40 points... the Blue Demons' five ties in 2010 set a school single-season record... DePaul had won a BIG EAST playoff game in each of the last three years... Aguilar, who will head up the offense in 2011, led DePaul on Friday night with three shots and two on goal... Connecticut has given up one goal in the last eight games... Matt Leinauer, Austin Toth, Gutierrez and Scott Freundlich played a strong game in front of Kulnig... Blazer started four freshmen against the Huskies---Ray De Leon, Toth, Art Garza and Mauricio Velasco... De Leon and Toth had one shot apiece... UConn outshot DePaul 16-8 and had seven shots on goal to three for the Blue Demons... the Huskies had a 9-2 advantage in corner kicks.