Men’s soccer opened up the NCAA tournament with a definitive victory against Husson (10-9-1) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Although Williams dominated in terms of possession, the Eagles were able to keep the Ephs scoreless well into the second half. However, once the men broke the tie, an offensive flurry yielded the 3-0 result in favor of Williams. In their second matchup of the weekend, the Ephs took on the 13th-ranked RPI Engineers and emerged victorious, moving on to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament and ending the Engineers’ season with a final record of 14-3-2.
On Sunday against RPI, Williams faced a talented team, according to captain and NESCAC Player of the Year Conor Smith ’10. “RPI was a better team, ranked in the top 10 for most of the season” he said.
Both teams had chances early in the game that came up short, from an unconverted breakaway by Pierre Meloty-Kapella ’10 to a bare miss past the far post for Engineers midfielder Sean Fleury.
The Ephs persevered, however, in the 19th minute of play. It comes as little surprise that assist magician Gaston Kelly ’11 delivered the game-winning cross when he sent the ball from the left side to Charlie Romero ’11, who netted the only goal of the game “with a soft touch finish,” according to Smith. Keeper Alex Penny did not have a chance of stopping this duo but made five other saves on the day.
Andrew Graham ’10 (three saves) came up big for the Ephs in the 37th minute when the Engineers garnered a legitimate scoring chance on a corner, redirecting the ball towards the net only to have Graham stifle any chance for a rebound. Although both the Ephs and Engineers had a few other scoring chances including a last ditch flurry of corners for RPI, the Eph defense maintained its standards of impenetrability. Led by Smith and Joe Vella ’11, the back four stifled any attempts by RPI to manage a come-from-behind victory over the dominant men’s team.
Although Head Coach Mike Russo thought RPI was “a good team,” he noted that their “main opportunities came from restarts” such that the Ephs dominated the flow in possession of the match.
Saturday’s game was never a close one despite the scoreless first half. The numbers indicate the Ephs’ dominance as Williams outshot Husson 26-2 in addition to a 10-2 corner kick differential. Although Russo said that the men “didn’t play well in the first half,” there were still a few legitimate scoring opportunities.
In the 40th minute, Smith found himself on the receiving end of a corner kick and solidly headed it towards the Eagles’ net but was shut down by a perfectly placed fullback who cleared the ball as it was crossing the goal line. “[We came out] a little flat and were missing our chances in the first half,” Smith said.
Williams quickly turned things around in the second half. Eagles’ keeper Miguel Dominguez had eight saves on the day but was no match for the Ephs offense once Williams finally found the net in the second half. Meloty-Kapella orchestrated the Ephs go-ahead goal when he outmaneuvered an Eagle defensemen to deliver a crisp pass to Romero. Romero fired a shot into the side netting past Dominguez in the game’s 70th minute.
In the next eight minutes the Ephs’ offense generated two more goals to crush the Eagles’ hopes of generating a come-from-behind victory. Kelly notched another assist on the season, as he bent a corner kick to Vella, who flicked the ball into the upper 90 and continued his trend of header goals this season.
The Ephs’ relentless attack was polished off in the 78th minute when Peter Houston ’10 found Alex Johnson ’11, who streaked to the goal and knocked home the third and final goal of the game.
Graham saved the lone shot he faced in his 85 minutes of play. Rookie goalie Than Finan ’13 took over with five minutes remaining to close out the victory for the Ephs.
“[We] have a strong week of practice ahead of us to prepare for the weekend . . . as we play York, which is a very good team,” Smith said.
Williams will play York away in the NCAA sectional semifinals on Saturday.