Ephs outlast Saints to advance to Round of 16

No. 9 men’s soccer (15-1-3) stormed into the NCAA Div. III Round of 16 on Sunday with an emphatic 2-1 overtime victory. A score by Michael Madding ’15 in the 99th minute lifted the men over No. 16 St. Lawrence and extended the men’s remarkable tournament run. The win on Sunday followed an impressive performance against Thomas on Saturday at Cole Field, in which the Ephs dispatched the Terriers 2-1.

On Sunday, St. Lawrence secured early momentum, scoring a goal before the men could even complete a pass. The Saints took the opening kick and launched the ball downfield to Jamal Samaroo, who made a diagonal cross from the goal behind the Eph backline. At 29 seconds, Samaroo sent a strike past Than Finan ’13, giving the Saints an early 1-0 advantage.

The men surged back, however, responding with strong defensive play as they successfully kept an advantage in possession for the remainder of the half. Madding nearly scored in the 12th minute off a cross from User Kushaina ’14, but the Saints’ goalkeeper was able to tip the ball over the net.

For the next 50 minutes, there were no shots on goal as both teams struggled to secure an advantage. In the 63rd minute, co-captain Matt Ratajczak ’13 fired a shot off a free kick from Andres Burbank-Crump ’15, but the Saints’ goalkeeper made the save.

With 10 minutes left in regulation, the Ephs saw momentum swing in their favor when Mohammed Rashid ’16 headed a ball to Matt Kastner ’14 who then returned it to a sprinting Rashid down the left side. In a textbook play, Rashid outmaneuvered a charging Nate Goss-Woliner inside the left post for the goal, equalizing the score at 1-1. With no additional goals in the next few minutes, the game headed into first overtime.

The beginning of the first overtime period saw little action as both sides volleyed for control. However, with a minute left to play, Ratajczak rushed up midfield and sent a cross flying at Goss-Woliner. The Saints’ goalkeeper deflected the ball directly at Madding’s chest. Madding seized the opportunity and sent a shot flying over Goss-Moliner’s head; his ball hit the crossbar and trickled into the goal with 41 seconds left in the period, securing an incredible 2-1 overtime victory for the Ephs.

“I thought we had a total team performance with our team depth contributing to the victory,” Head Coach Mike Russo said. “[It was a] fantastic run by Matt Ratajczak, who raced down the touchline with the ball and crossed it where Michael Madding had an incredible finish.”

The win over St. Lawrence followed an equally close contest against Thomas on Saturday. Unlike in Sunday’s game, it was the Ephs who got off to the strong start on Saturday, with Patrick Ebobisse ’13 driving a low shot toward Thomas goalkeeper Mikkail Crockwell less than a minute into regulation. Despite Ebobisse’s effort, Crockwell managed to save the goal by tipping the ball off the post.

The Ephs maintained an advantage in possession for the most of the first half. The offensive drive resulted in a breakthrough in the 28th minute, when Ebobisse sent an arching cross from the left to the center. While Crockwell was frozen by the Eph front line, Rashid sent a header into the net, giving Williams a 1-0 lead that the men extended into halftime.

The Terriers came out swinging in the second half when Joshua Phelps drove up the center to the touchline before dishing the ball to Michael Hand. Hand sent a strike past Finan and into the net, tying the score 1-1 at 53:49. The Ephs quickly responded, with Ebobisse passing the ball off to Rashid on the right side in the 59th minute. Rashid returned the ball to Ebobisse, who was streaking up the field. The senior took an uncontested shot on goal and sent the ball effortlessly into the back of the net, giving the men a 2-1 advantage.

Crockwell made three saves off  Rashid, Ebobisse and Chris Seitz ’15 over the next 10 minutes, but the effort was not enough to slow down the Ephs, who monopolized possession and kept the Terriers on the defensive for the remainder of the match. The 2-1 victory advanced the men into Sunday’s game against St. Lawrence.

“[The Terriers] were a talented team and even though we had a possession advantage, we did not feel comfortable until the end of the match,” Russo said. “Patrick Ebobisse, with the assist on the first goal and the winning goal, was the man of the match.”

The men will next play Brandeis at Amherst this Saturday in the Div. III NCAA Round of 16. If Williams tops Brandeis, the men will have the chance to play in Sunday’s quarterfinals and then potentially to advance to the semifinal and championship rounds in San Antonio, Texas, which will be held on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, respectively.

“Our intensity, work ethic and commitment was the best it has been all year, and we hope to carry this over into next weekend,” Russo said.