Men’s soccer secures post-season spot

Men’s soccer secured its spot in the upcoming NESCAC tournament last Saturday, with a win against conference foe Tufts. The Ephs (9-3-1) took on the Jumbos (4-7-1) at home on Cole field on an overcast afternoon. The game was crucial for both teams’ NESCAC standings, and this tension resulted in a rough game in which players fought for possession every minute. Any remnants of their heartbreaking loss to Middlebury on Oct. 13 vanished as Williams overcame Tufts with two goals in the second half of play.

Battles for the ball in the midfield area ensued within the first 15 minutes of play. Each team was determined to prevent the other from passing into the offensive zone. The Ephs soon discovered, however, that the use of long through passes allowed their offense to penetrate the Jumbos’ backline. With this strategy, Williams gained possession for the first time in the half, though the success was short-lived. Tufts regained some stability of play, due to Williams’ continual errors, such as off-sides offenses and inaccurate passes. The Jumbos even had one frighteningly close opportunity when a Tufts player intercepted a Williams pass and made a break up the field. Eph keeper Andrew Graham ’10 stopped the shot, however, with an aggressive and accurate charge and quick block, one of his four saves in the contest.

This Tufts opportunity thwarted, the first half ended scoreless, and the teams once again battled around the midfield during the first 15 minutes of the second half. Unlike before, the Jumbos were able to follow through on their next chance on net when they regained possession. During one of the Jumbos’ multiple kicks awarded for Eph fouls, Alex Botwinick sent the ball to Dan Jozwiak, whose header found net at the 60 minute mark.

Down by one, the Ephs began to play with a fierceness not seen previously in the game. They moved the ball down to the Jumbos’ box, where a foul led to a penalty kick for Williams. Nathan Elwood ’08 sent the kick in to tie the score, just four minutes after Tufts’ goal.

Play returned to a more even rhythm for the majority of the second half, as neither team was able to elude the other’s defense. Mike Darling ’08 changed the scene with less than 10 minutes left when he brought the ball to the left corner of the field, just outside of the Jumbos’ box. In a beautifully-executed play, Darling sent an arching shot towards the goal, which slid just over the fingertips of Jumbo keeper Pat Tonelli. With a final score of 2-1, Williams knocked Tufts out of contention for the NESCAC tournament and ensured their own spot.

The men played without starters Sam Empson ’09 and Ryan Pelletier ’08 in the midfield, as well as Brian Dolezal ’09 and Chris Gocksch ’09 on defense, all of whom were injured. “Tufts really came to play today— really played motivated and I take my hat off to them,” Head Coach Mike Russo said. “We were missing a bunch of starters so we asked a lot of guys to step up and they did. It was a total team effort and I’m very pleased.” The injured players are expected to recover before the team’s next game.

The next and final game of the regular season will be against rival Amherst, who has lost only one game this season. The Ephs will take on the Jeffs at Cole Field this Saturday, Oct. 27, at 11:00 a.m. In a battle for the Little Three title, the Ephs will attempt to improve their conference standing, currently 6-2.

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