Unbeaten men’s soccer advances to Elite Eight

The men’s soccer team advanced to the quarterfinals of NCAA play this weekend with wins over Hunter College and Salem State, continuing its run to a potential second-straight Final Four appearance.

On Sunday the Ephmen faced off against a strong Salem State team on Cole Field. With rainy weather and a muddy field, it was clear from the start that this was going to be a tough game for the Ephs. The first half was a war as both teams took several shots on goal, yet neither was able to produce. With a scoreless tie going into the second half, Williams stepped its play up a notch. Having three shots just miss the goal, the Ephs began to dominate.

However, a Salem State injury resulted in a delay that stole some of Williams’ momentum and the game continued as a back and forth battle. Then, 70 minutes into the matchup, a Williams player was tripped, setting up a free kick for the Ephs. Richard Bode ’02 placed the ball into the box, where Shawn Boburg ’00 headed it into the goal for the first and only goal of the game.

Now up 1-0, the Ephs’ defense worked to hold Salem State to only two shots on goal. Graham Davidson ’01, Will Ouimet ’01 and Jason Stojkovic ’00 came up with key plays to hold Salem State in check and help the Williams offense, while Captain Matt Magiera ’00 and Marc Williams ’02 stopped Salem State’s attempts with Graham Dobbin ’01 and Ted Giannocopoulous ’02 coming up with key tackles to thwart any hope of a Viking comeback. Neal Appleman ’00 made one save in goal for the Ephs in their 12th shutout this season.

While there were many fine individual performances in Sunday’s Sweet Sixteen game, it was a team effort that brought the Ephs their 1-0 victory. “I think that we as a team are just starting to peak,” forward Giannacopulos said. “Salem State had very good individual players, but we were more of a team, and in the end, that paid off.”

Head Coach Mike Russo was also very happy with his team’s effort, saying “I think today and in the last few games the team’s mentality has been tremendous, up there with some of the best teams we’ve had here.”

On Saturday, Williams came up big, routing Hunter College 5-0. The Ephmen controlled the pace from the start as they dominated a weaker Hunter team. Sixteen minutes into the game, Williams scored its first goal as Bode took a corner kick and Michael Cortese ’01 headed into the net.

Minutes later, Ouimet crossed a ball to Alex Blake ’03, who netted the Ephs’ second goal. The half ended with Williams enjoying a comfortable 2-0 cushion to start the second half.

By this time, the Hawks were visibly frustrated and the Ephs began to take advantage of the opportunity. The Ephs scored again early in the half when Eric Stein ’02 passed the ball to the perimeter of the box where Magiera was waiting. Magiera then blasted a shot past the Hunter goalie, bringing the Eph lead to three. Williams struck again with only 16 minutes elapsed in the half when Stein assisted on his second goal. After Stein sent a ball to the 18 -yard line, Blake received it and dribbled through the Hunter defense to blast a shot for his second goal of the game.

Leading 4-0, Williams did not let up as it continued to command the pace and play of the game. Then, 65 minutes into the game, Blake hit the post and Giannacopoulos came flying through the Hunter defense to put the rebound in the lower right corner, netting the Ephs’ fifth and final goal.

The Williams defense was solid the entire game, holding Hunter to only one shot on goal. Appleman split his time in goal with Robert Kirsher ’03.

“We knew the key to winning today’s game would be to raise the tempo,” Russo said. “And I think we did a good job of that. Once we picked up the tempo, we took Hunter College out of their rhythm and tired them out.”

Now part of the Elite Eight, Williams will next face Richard Stockton College (19-4-1) at the Osprey’s new field in Pomona, N.J. The Ephmen were set to host the game, but since the women’s soccer team is holding the Final Four, the venue was changed. The game is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m., and there is a possibility that the game will be broadcast on WCFM.

The Ephs are well positioned to make a run for the national title as defending champion Ohio Wesleyan, which defeated Williams in the national semifinals a year ago, was knocked out of the tournament on Saturday.

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