Both locals awarded Little East first team honors, as men's soccer advances to NCAAs
Senior Matt Furman's remarkable run will end sometime in the next couple of weeks.
The later, the better, as far as Furman is concerned.
He's having too much fun playing a starring role for the Eastern Connecticut State University men's soccer team to stop anytime soon.
"Our team is having a wonderful season, the best that I've been a part of my four years here," Furman said Wednesday.
Fresh off their fourth straight Little East Conference tournament championship win, the 24th-ranked Warriors (17-1-1) qualified to compete in the NCAA Division III tournament. They'll face No. 13 St. Lawrence (13-2-3) in first-round action Saturday afternoon in Williamstown, Mass.
Furman, a forward from Montville, and goalie Jordan Munsell of Waterford, are two of five seniors on the Warriors roster that will be playing in their unprecedented fourth consecutive NCAA tournament.
The ECSU veterans have never gone past the second round.
"I'm hoping this week we can make a run for it," Furman said. We have what it takes to go anywhere and beat any team."
With Furman and Munsell in the starting lineup, the Warriors like their chances of advancing deep into postseason.
Furman has been blessed with a lethal combination of speed, skill and tenacity before his days as an all-state forward at Montville High School.
His senior season got off to a sluggish start. Recovering from a partially torn ACL in his right knee that prevented him from playing summer soccer, Furman struggled to regain his scorer's touch, misfiring in the first four games.
Once he scored twice in a 3-2 win over Rhode Island College on Sept. 15 in Providence, Furman heated up. He found the back of the net eight times in a span of six games.
"My confidence was down a little bit," Furman said. "Once I finally started scoring goals, it came back to me. I knew if we were going to go far this season, I was going to have to help my team out."
Furman, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward, earned Little East Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors after leading the conference in goals (13) and points (31). He also accounted for four game-winning goals this season.
"I can't say enough about Matt," Eastern coach Greg DeVito said. "He's led the team in scoring for the last three years. He's been all-conference for three straight years. He was just nominated for player of year. He stepped up it leadership-wise. He really works hard in the classroom.
"He's one of those kids when you work hard, good things happen for you. His work rate is tremendous and he doesn't quit."
Furman appreciates the praise but prefers the spotlight to be on his teammates. He raved about the play of Munsell, who's sparkled in goal in his first year as a full-time starter.
"He's been tremendous for us," Furman said. "He's a big kid. He's very vocal and he just likes to pump the team up."
While Furman has been a fixture in the rotation for the last three years, Munsell had to patiently wait his turn playing behind standout goalie Carl Appel.
When Appel graduated, the 6-for-2 Munsell took over for him this fall.
Munsell has made a significant impact while starting 18 of 19 games. He ranks first in the conference in shutouts (eight) and goals-against-average (0.63). He earned All-Little East Conference first team honors for the first time.
"He's made the most of his senior year with a big year," DeVito said. "He's very humble?. and very hard working. He doesn't back down from anything. He's got the mentality to be successful."
When their soccer careers are finally over, they'll use their competitive spirit and Eastern education to compete in the real world.
Munsell is a psychology major and plans to go into psychiatry. Furman, who is majoring in business administration with a concentration in marketing, would like to score an internship in a city after graduating.