By Todd Stanford
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- It was a night of firsts at Susquehanna University's Sassafras Field. One of which led directly to the other.
Susquehanna senior defender Sean Raffetto scored the first goal of his collegiate career with a long blast in the waning seconds of the first half Sunday. That tally held up, as the Crusaders advanced to the NCAA Division III round of 16 for the first time in program history with a 1-0 victory over Rochester.
"I never get to shoot," said Raffetto, who admitted afterward that he hadn't scored a goal in six years. "Anytime I get the ball like that, I'm shooting."
The Crusaders (18-2-1), ranked 10th in the country by d3soccer.com, will now face No. 5 Ohio Northern (22-2) on Friday at a site and time to be announced.
"(Coming into the season) we felt we had a chance to challenge for a conference championship and make our way into the NCAAs," said Susquehanna coach Jim Findlay, whose side captured the Landmark Conference championship last weekend and won the first NCAA tournament game in program history on Saturday with a penalty-kick shootout win over Cabrini. "But (to be) 18-2-1 ... and the sweet 16. You dream of it, but you don't know if it's going to be a reality or not."
Senior keeper Matt Salsman -- a Selinsgrove High School graduate -- made nine saves to keep Susquehanna alive. His biggest stop was a punch-save in the 87th minute off a volley by Rochester's Jake Cargill.
"I couldn't believe I saved it," Salsman said. "There was like 20 people in front of me and I saw it late. I was just lucky to get it over the bar. At that moment I just felt that maybe we were destined to win this game."
Raffetto's goal came with just seven seconds remaining before halftime. As the public-address announcer began counting off the final seconds, Raffetto launched a shot from 40 yards out that went over the outstretched arm of Yellowjackets keeper Scott Garfing and just under the crossbar for the goal.
"I was in shock," Raffetto said. "I couldn't even run or celebrate. I just thought, 'Oh my God. That went in.'"
"These guys, they have free reign on the field to improvise," Findlay added.
"He didn't just close his eyes and hit the shot. You could see the whole play building up: He takes a touch, he beats his defender. ... He knew what he was doing."
Rochester (10-4-4) had more than a few close calls. In the 43rd minute, the Yellowjackets' Max Eberhardt and Seth Davis-Brown both hit the post within a five-second span. In the final minute of the game, Rochester defender Alex Swanger hit the crossbar on a header. For the night, the Yellowjackets outshot the Crusaders 19-8 and had four more corner kicks (6-2).
"A lot of people might look at the stats and say we packed it in," Findlay said. "But anybody that was here tonight knew that we came to play. We played them straight up. It's just such a great feeling to be headed to the sweet 16."