Men’s soccer (11-2-2, 6-1-2 in the NESCAC) was denied a chance to compete for the NESCAC title following a 2-1 overtime loss to Wesleyan in the NESCAC quarterfinals on Sunday. Although the team ended the regular season on a high note on Friday with a 3-0 win over Middlebury, the men will now have to hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in order to continue their season.
Entering Sunday’s game as the second-seeded team in the NESCAC tournament, Williams came up against a strong Wesleyan team that controlled the midfield throughout much of the first half. The Ephs were limited to three shots to the Cardinals’ six in the first 45 minutes of the game, although Williams went on to outshoot Wesleyan 11-4 in the second half.
The only Eph goal of the game came on an own goal in the 42nd minute, when a corner kick by Gordon Atkins ’11 was knocked into the net by a Cardinals midfielder. Wesleyan scored the equalizing goal in the 82nd minute against goalie Peter Morrell ’14 for a 1-1 tie as the clock wound down. Morrell had two saves on the game. The Cardinals scored the game-winning goal in the 94th minute of the game, just minutes into overtime.
“We were outplayed in the first half, played very well for 36 minutes of the second half but let our guard down on a free kick,” Head Coach Mike Russo said. “They scored and the momentum changed. Soccer is very much a momentum game, and we had opportunities to finish Wesleyan off but were not able to score the important second goal.”
Sunday’s game marked the eighth overtime game of the year for the Ephs, setting a new NCAA Div. III record. Previously, Alleghany College had held the record for most overtime games in a season, with seven in 1996. The Ephs ended the regular season with a 5-0-2 record in overtime games, as Sunday’s game marked their first overtime loss.
“The season has been a good one where we’ve gotten a lot of timely goals from a number of different people,” co-captain Gaston Kelly ’11 said. “Although it would be nice to win the games in regulation, sometimes a team has to be able to pull the close ones out, and thankfully we’ve pulled a lot of them out in our favor.”
On the previous day, the Ephs dominated the Panthers 3-0, with Williams capitalizing on 10 shots to Middlebury’s seven. The Ephs scored early in the game, as Kiel Bonhomme ’11 fired a point-blank shot past Panther goalie Tim Cahill in the 12th minute. Charlie Romero ’11 was credited with the assist. Williams scored again in the 54th minute when Alex Johnson ’11 converted a Bonhomme pass into a goal for a commanding 2-0 lead. The Ephs’ final score came in the 74th minute, as Kelly scored off a second Romero assist. Morrell had three saves on the game.
“It was good to beat Middlebury because they have been a real thorn in our side for the last three years,” Kelly said. “The game was a complete team performance. We were able to finish the few chances that we got; we had seven shots and three goals, which is an incredible ratio. We also scored on three crosses on the ground, which is what we’ve been working on all season.”
Although the team’s chance at a NESCAC title will have to be put off for another year, the men’s season may not be over just yet. The NCAA routinely gives at-large bids to teams that do not claim their conference’s automatic bid. Russo stated that while the team has a chance at the at-large bid, they will not find out until Monday afternoon.
“Training this week will be tough,” Kelly said. “We are confident that we will make it to the NCAAs, but one can never know. It’s a really uncomfortable feeling having to go train and stay upbeat when our season could already be over. The team mentality has been shaken a bit, but we are proceeding with the idea that we have two weeks to get ready for the biggest game of our season. If we lose that one, then it really is all over.”