Men’s soccer downs Tufts, remains perfect

Alex Blake ’03 broke the all-time record for points amassed in a season with two goals in men’s soccer 4-1 victory over the Tufts Jumbos (9-3-0; 5-3-0 in the NESCAC) on Saturday. With the win, the Ephs (12-0-0; 8-0-0) have now clinched the NESCAC regular-season title, meaning Williams, as the conference’s first seed, will host the semifinal and final rounds of the NESCAC Tournament in two weeks.

“I was very pleased with the way the team played today,” said head coach Mike Russo. “Tufts has a very strong team, and to be honest, I was somewhat surprised with the final score. We’re delighted to have won today because it means we’ll get to stay at home for the tournament, which was our primary goal.”

The Ephs scored three times in the first half after being held scoreless for the first 20 minutes of play. Ted Giannacopoulos ’02 broke through several Jumbo defenders and sent a chip pass to Josef Powell ’02, who knocked the ball into the lower right hand corner of the net on a diving header.

In the 30th minute of play, Blake scored the first of his two goals on a fast break. Richard Bode ’02 sent a pass to Blake who beat his man and sent the ball into the lower right-hand corner of the net.

Blake would give the Ephs a 3-0 lead in the 35th minute. Giannacopoulos displayed some fancy footwork in breaking down the Jumbo defense before flicking the ball off to Blake who sent a shot past the Tufts goaltender, Scott Conroy.

Giannacopoulos would score a goal of his own in the 53rd minute to close out the scoring for the Ephmen. After receiving the ball from Eric Stein ’02, Giannacopoulos made his way through the Jumbo defenders for the third time before sending the ball into the lower right-hand corner of the net.

Brad Stitchberry would spoil the Ephs’ bid for their sixth shutout of the season with a beautiful goal in the 61st minute. Matt MacGregor found Stitchberry with a pass in the middle of the field that Stitchberry collected and rocketed into the upper left-hand corner of the goal. Despite the one lapse late in the game, the Ephs held on for the 4-1 victory.

After scoring two goals on the day, Blake now has 53 points on the season, adding another feather into his record-breaking season’s cap. The previous record of 50 points in a season, as set by Mike Masters ’89, with 18 goals and 14 assists in his record-setting campaign, had stood since 1988.

This season, Blake has set new records for all-time goals scored, single-season goals scored, points-amassed in a single season, and consecutive games with a goal scored. Blake’s average of 4.42 points per game ranks first in the nation, as does his average of scoring 1.83 goals per game.

“I haven’t really been following what’s been going on in terms of whatever records I might be breaking,” said Blake of his accomplishments this season. “I just want to win a championship ? that’s been my main focus throughout my entire career. I have the best supporting cast I could ever ask for, and all I have to do is finish on the chances they give me ? a lot of the credit belongs to them.”

The victory over the Jumbos extended the Ephs’ unbeaten streak to 50 games, over which span the Ephmen have gone 49-0-1.

Last week, Blake was the offensive star in the Ephs’ emotional, come-from-behind 2-1 victory over rival Amherst College (6-4-2; 4-2-2) as well.

“That was a tremendous game, I was delighted to win that one,” said Russo. “We haven’t had many close games, and I give them a lot of credit: they’d had a rough stretch [the Lord Jeffs had gone 1-1-2 in their previous four contests] and they certainly rose to the challenge ? they came out with a lot of intensity.”

Chris Kane staked the Jeffs to their one-goal lead in the 22nd minute on a beautiful goal off a volley from 20 yards out. Michael York launched the ball to the opposite side of the 18-yard box on a throw-in on the left side that Ryan Olsen ’04 attempted to clear with a header.

Olsen’s header was collected by Kane, however, who trapped the ball on his knee, set himself and sent a blast into the upper right-hand corner of the goal.

At the half, the Ephs found themselves with an unfamiliar deficit. Indeed, not only had the Ephs never before in this season trailed during half-time, they had never been held scoreless in the first half of play in any of their ten previous contests.

“There was never any sense of panic, at the half, we basically concentrated on improvements we could make to our strategic play,” said Marc Williams ’02, who turned in a tremendous effort on the defensive end.

The Jeffs would maintain their one-goal advantage until the 52nd minute. Olsen received the ball on the left flank and sent a gorgeous cross into the 18-yard box that neither team was able to control.

A scramble ensued in the box with both teams trying to gain control of the loose ball; finally, Giannacopoulos was able to redirect the ball to Blake as it seemed headed for the hands of Amherst goaltender Bill Orum. Blake managed to nudge the ball into the net off a volley to even the score at one apiece.

The game would remain tied until the 71st minute. Powell found Blake in the center of the field with a pass; Blake proceeded to shake off his defender, turn toward the goal and send a blast into the lower right-hand corner of the goal to give the Ephs a 2-1 lead.

The Ephs next game is Tuesday at MCLA at 2:30 p.m.

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