Men’s soccer (8-6-2, 6-3-1 in the NESCAC) lost a heart-breaking match to Bowdoin in the NESCAC quarterfinals last Saturday. The Ephs’ 2-1 defeat also marks Head Coach Mike Russo’s final game after 36 years of coaching soccer at Williams. On Oct. 29, Williams defeated Hamilton 1-0.
“It was very disappointing,” Russo said of the Bowdoin game. “It was our goal to get to the [NESCAC] tournament and to win it, but obviously it was not meant to be.”
On Saturday, the Ephs had a few chances from corner kicks to put pressure on the Polar Bears’ defense early, but it was not until late in the first half that either team’s goalie was tested. Patrick Gordon ’17 fired a solid shot in the 41st minute that ended up in the Bowdoin goalie’s arms, and Matt Muralles ’15 tried a header that faced a similar fate. Despite chances from both sides, the score at halftime was tied 0-0.
In the second half, Bowdoin gained an early advantage off a corner kick. The Polar Bears grabbed the ball after a touch by the Ephs, and after a hard shot into the side of the net Bowdoin took a 1-0 lead two minutes into the second half.
The Ephs recovered quickly by putting pressure on the Polar Bears. In the 52nd minute, Malcolm Moutenot ’17 maneuvered around the Polar Bears’ defense and snuck a pass across the goal. Muralles was there to finish off the move with a shot over the goalie’s head, tying the score at 1-1.
“In the second half, we gave up the goal early to Bowdoin and then responded very well,” Russo said. “I thought we might take over the game, but they came on strong and took over midfield.”
Bowdoin kept the Williams defense on their toes in the second half, firing off 11 shots in the second half to the men’s three. Ephs’ goalie Christian Alcorn ’17 made an important save in the 55th minute off a Polar Bear header, and later stopped a score with just 12 minutes left to play. In the 79th minute, the Polar Bears broke through with a long ball that curved into the back of the net for a score.
With the score 2-1, the Ephs desperately tried to tie the game up again in the last ten minutes. The Ephs held off several chances by the Polar Bears to seal the game, while attempting to move down the field. A long cross by Chris Seitz ’15 almost led to an error by the Bowdoin goalie, but that was the closest Williams came to scoring again.
Against Hamilton last Wednesday, the men dominated possession for the first half but failed to come away with a goal. Michael Madding ’15 and Zach Grady ’15 each had chances on goal, but the Continentals’ goalie thwarted the Ephs’ shots. In the 35th minute, Madding had another scoring chance, but his shot deflected off the goalie’s leg out of harm’s way.
The game was a stalemate for much of the second half, until in the 79th minute, when Grady found Geoff Danilack ’16 in the box, who slotted the ball back to Grady. Grady then punched the ball in to give the Ephs a 1-0 lead they would not relinquish.
“We knew we could not afford a tie, so we pushed it back into midfield and it seemed to work with great play by [Geoff] Danilack,” Russo said.
The Ephs will lose nine seniors to graduation, including co-captains Luke Pierce ’15 and Andres Burbank-Crump ’15. They will miss the production of Grady next year, who led the NESCAC with ten goals scored. The men will also lose Madding, Muralles, Seitz, Andrew Bravo ’15, Chris Conder ’15 and Nathan Miller ’15.
Russo will retire from coaching with 438 wins, placing him in the top-ten all time for Div. III men’s coaches. Russo led the Ephs to a national championship in 1995, and brought the Ephs to the Final Four in the NCAA Div. III tournament three times in the past six years.
“[Coaching at Williams] was a fantastic experience,” Russo said. “We had a great ride, and if I had to do it all over again, I would do it the same way.”