Bantams edge Ephs in NESCAC semis

Men’s soccer (9-4-3, 5-2-3 in the NESCAC) fell 1-0 to Trinity in the NESCAC semifinals last Saturday. Trinity’s goal in the 81st minute ended Williams’ season. 

Co-captain Nick Pugliese ’12 rifled three shots and one shot on goal as the men fell 1-0 to Trinity in the NESCAC semifinal. Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

Saturday’s game between second seed Williams and third seed Trinity was played at Amherst, the top seed in the NESCAC tournament. From the first whistle, the match was an even affair. Neither side had a significant advantage in possession, and quality scoring chances were scarce.

Trinity had the first scoring opportunity in the 10th minute, when it drew a foul just above the 18-yard box. Bantam Anthony El-Hachem took the ensuing free kick, but Eph goalkeeper Than Finan ’13 parried the shot to keep the game scoreless.

Later in the first period, both Patrick Ebobisse ’13 and co-captain Matt Ratajczak ’13 saw efforts sail wide of the net. At the end of the first half, Williams had attempted seven shots and Trinity had attempted five, but neither team managed to score.

The Ephs and Bantams exchanged scoring opportunities through most of the second half. In the 54th minute, Trinity keeper Grant Schonberg just managed to get his hand on a chip from co-captain Nick Pugliese ’12 to preserve the 0-0 tie.

While each squad created some close calls for the opposing keepers, the game remained scoreless until Trinity took a corner kick in the 81st minute. On the set piece, the ball was played short toward the top of the penalty box, where Bantam Graham Goldstein controlled the ball and found teammate Joe Buckley. Buckley fired a driven shot on net. Finan layed out to save the attempt, but the ball rebounded to Bantam Dan Mayernick, who slotted the ball just inside the post and broke the tie. The goal gave Trinity a 1-0 lead.

In the remainder of the game, the Ephs fought hard to knot the score but could not break onto the board. Zach Grady ’15 ripped a pair of shots that forced Schonberg to make some clutch saves, and Andres Burbank-Crump ’15 powered a free kick into the Bantam wall with just a few minutes left to play. Despite outshooting Trinity 18-8, Williams could not overcome the 1-0 deficit, and Trinity walked away with the win.

“I thought that the loss to Trinity on Saturday was a real heartbreaker,” Ratajczak said. “It’s always disappointing to lose, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort.”

There were 17 fouls in the game and no yellow cards. Williams took two corner kicks to Trinity’s four. Finan made three saves while Schonberg made five.

“The guys gave everything they had in a game, which quite frankly I thought we deserved to win,” Ratajczak said. “Unfortunately, that’s soccer. One of very few sports you can dominate and still come up on the losing end.”

Saturday’s loss to Trinity eliminated Williams from the NESCAC tournament, and the team did not receive an at-large bid to the Div. III NCAA tournament. Amherst ultimately claimed the NESCAC crown and an automatic bid to the Div. III NCAA tourney after disposing of Trinity 2-0 on Sunday. Trinity also earned an at-large bid. The Ephs will graduate six players this season: Philip Vestergaard ’12, Daniel Morrisroe ’12, Angus Kennedy ’12, Takuto Sato ’12, Matt Staiger ’12 and Pugliese.

“Overall, we have nothing to be ashamed of,” Ratajczak said. “We worked incredibly hard, stuck together through the highs and lows of the season and did everything as a team. For that, we should be pleased.”