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WEST LONG BRANCH – It’s often the journey that makes the final destination that much sweeter.

Take the Monmouth men’s soccer team, bound for Greensboro, North Carolina and a showdown with Bowling Green in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament next Thursday.

To understand the exhilaration of Saturday’s dramatic 1-0 victory at Quinnipiac in the MAAC Tournament championship game, you have to go back to the final game of the 2018 season, a 6-0 loss at Quinnipiac that served as rock bottom for a program that went to the NCAAs five times between 2006-13.

“We finished 0-10 in conference, and that was the low point for the team, the program and me personally,” said redshirt junior goalkeeper Sean Murray. “So to come full circle, and to be able to turn the team around, begin having success and to finish it off on that field, where our low point came, was really a good moment.”

Julian Gomez has scored a goal int helast five games for Monmouth, including the game-winner in the MAAC Tournament championship game on April 17, 2021.

Return to relevance

The return to relevance has been stunningly swift for the Hawks, down 3-1 at halftime at Niagara in the final game of the regular season, needing a win just got get into the conference tournament.

But Julian Gomez, the sophomore from St. Benedict’s who scored the game-winner at Quinnipiac in the 86th minute, evened matters in the second half, before Middletown North product Liam McGregor scored the game-winner in overtime.

They’ve been on fire ever since.

Three days later, after busing back up to Niagara, the Hawks went down a goal before emerging with a 2-1 quarterfinal victory, before beating Rider on the road to reach the final.

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