Mason advanced to the CAAC Gold Cup semifinals, and avenged one of its two losses this season, with a 1-0 home win over defending Cup finalist Holt on Thursday night.
Freshman Leutrim Shefkiu scored the only goal of the game just 1:26 into the contest, and the Bulldogs (15-2-1) made it stand up to book a spot in the Cup semifinals on Tuesday, when they will face East Lansing.
“This is a big win,” Mason coach Nick Binder said. “(Holt) is a team that has a bunch of talented players, and they played incredibly well against us, so to keep them off the scoreboard is an accomplishment.”
Shefkiu’s goal was set up by a long free kick by Mason keeper Josh Flamme. Holt cleared the ball only as far as top of the box, where Shefkiu placed a first-time shot into the upper corner with 38:34 on the clock.
Flamme had to come up big later in the half to preserve the lead, first with an acrobatic diving save on a close-range effort by Holt’s Tucker Pape and again on a blast from 18 yards out by Jake McCreery minutes later.
The attacking play that resulted in quality chances at both ends in the first half virtually dried up in the second. The Rams (10-7-3) seemed content to dump and chase, which Holt coach Aaron Smith said was the result of having some of his players in multiple positions because of injuries.
“It was one of those when you give up the early goal, and chase the game the rest of the time,” Smith said. “We need to attack in numbers; in the second half, I don’t think we had a clean shot on net.”
The only real chance of the second half came with about 18 minutes left, when Mason’s Bill Wilson stole the ball in the corner deep in Holt territory and found Tyler Raab at the near post, but the first-time shot was mis-hit and went well wide.
“There are a lot of things I think we can improve upon, but there were a lot of things we did well,” Binder said. “Our goal is to play well, and to see where things fall after that, and I thought we played well.”