The Ephs took the NCAA tournament by storm this weekend, cruising by Middlebury on Saturday and defeating Plymouth State on Sunday to win the New England championship and secure a place in the NCAA “elite eight.” On Wednesday, prior to the New England semifinal match against Middlebury, Williams defeated Bowdoin to advance to the New England final four, which was held in Plymouth, New Hampshire.
Williams and Plymouth State, two teams on incredible rolls, barreled into each other on Sunday in the New England final in an epic battle that will surely be remembered by Williams soccer fans for years to come. Williams, defeating Middlebury 5-0 the day before, had recorded 11 straight shutouts; Plymouth State boasted an undefeated record through 19 games, and was coming off a thrilling, last-second victory in their semifinal match against Amherst.
The Ephmen came out with guns blazing, and within five minutes of the opening whistle took the lead on a goal by Angelo Patentas ’99, off a cross from freshmen Ted Giannacopolous. Plymouth, sparked by the loud, partisan crowd, refused to collapse, and answered with a goal in the twenty-fourth minute by Andrew Moubouyei. Plymouth’s skilled, gritty style created problems for the Ephs defense and the Panthers maintained constant pressure on goalkeeper Ryan Spicer. Williams, however, was up to the challenge and the score remained tied 1-1 at half-time.
Plymouth was all over Williams at the start of the second half and the Ephs’ season looked in peril in the fifty-second minute when Plymouth forward Jason Elderkin cracked a fierce volley past Spicer to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead. The goal seemed to inspire the Ephs and the momentum shifted decisively in Williams favor. The forward trio of Patentas, Nick Trebat ’99, and Giannacopolous ran circles around the Plymouth defense, and the Panthers tried to contain the attack with a rougher style of play. The tactic failed miserably, and resulted in a Williams goal in the sixty-second minute. Steve Danbusky ’99 belted a free kick at Plymouth keeper Todd Higgins, and the ball rebounded to Dan Pozen ’99, who placed the ball in the back of the unprotected net.
The winning goal came with just eight minutes left. Steve Danbusky, taking the fourteenth Williams corner kick of the game, delivered a sharp ball, which the keeper Higgins was unable to handle. Sweeper Matt Magiera headed in the rebound, giving the Ephs a 3-2 lead and their fourth New England championship in six years.
Williams victory against their arch-rival Middlebury on Saturday was almost as thrilling. Middlebury was responsible for the only Eph loss of the year, and the Ephs gained full retribution with a 5-0 drubbing of the Panthers. All five goals were scored in the second half, as the Ephs launched an offensive attack with more speed and skill than the Middlebury defense could handle.
Trebat and Danbusky began the scoring spree early in the second half, and with arguably the best defense in New England, the two goal lead seemed sufficient to hold off the Panthers. Jason Stoickovic ’00, however, with his opportunistic, determined style of play, quickly added two more. Mike Cortese ’01 sealed the win late in the game with a triumphant near-post blast past All-American keeper Scott Wercinski.
To arrive at the New England final four in Plymouth, New Hampshire, Williams soundly defeated Bowdoin College 2-0. Matt Magiera ’00, the heart of the Williams defense, headed in the first goal at the 21-minute mark of the first half. Thirty seconds later, midfielder Dan Pozen headed in another off a long cross from forward Patentas.
Williams’ next challenge will be St. Lawrence this Saturday, winner of the Northeast region. In all likelihood, the Ephs will have to make the trek to northern New York to face their opponent, unless inclement weather forces the NCAA committee to change the site to an alternate location.
St. Lawrence boasts an 18-1 record, largely due to the presence of Canadian national team goalkeeper Greg Sutton. The Ephs, though, are one of the hottest teams in the country and are confident about their chances this Saturday. “St. Lawrence is a great team, but we’re on a roll now, and the best is yet to come,” captain Steve Danbusky said.