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Brandeis falters on senior day; loses control of their own fate

By Brian Tabakin

Section: Sports

November 2, 2012

The men’s soccer team suffered its first home defeat of the season at the worst possible time this past weekend. With a chance to clinch the UAA and an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament for the first time in over a decade in front of fans and parents, the Judges were unable to grind out a win.

Despite scoring first, the Brandeis defense, which had been stellar all season, allowed Carnegie Mellon to score the equalizing and game-winning goal less than three minutes apart at the end of the first half.

With the loss, the Judges fall to 15-2-1 (3-2-1 UAA) while the Tartans improve to 12-2-1 (4-1-1 UAA). With sole possession of first place, the Tartans can clinch the UAA title with a win against Emory next week; however, since the Judges do not hold the tiebreaker against the Tartans, the Judges chances at a UAA titles are over.

The game started off at a rapid-fire pace as both teams raced up and down the field between offense and defense with neither team able to establish sustained offensive pressure. Brandeis finally broke through in the 15th minute when Robbie Lynch ’15, from the defensive zone, sent the ball to midfield. Tyler Savonen ’15 gained possession of the ball and immediately dribbled it into the open space, ultimately sliding the ball past the Tartans’ keeper Christopher Madden, to put the Judges ahead 1-0. The goal was Savonen’s sixth of the season.

The majority of the next 20 minutes was played around midfield with neither team able to generate any offense. The Tartans, however, broke through in the 39th minute in what proved to be the decisive three minutes of both teams’ seasons.

Cole Christensen played a cross to the left side of the field where John Crawshaw was waiting. Crawshaw then sent the ball into the box where Chris Wysocki tapped the ball past Blake Minchoff ’13 to tie the game at 1-1.

Feeding off of the momentum created by their game-tying goal, the Tartans scored the decisive goal just a few minutes later.

Max Tassano unleashed a rocket from 20 yards out that deflected multiple Brandeis defenders before taking an unlucky bounce into the goal past the diving arms of Minchoff.

The Tartans took a 2-1 lead into the half to go along with a 5-4 advantage in shots.

Lee Russo ’13 stressed, “We can’t point fingers at anybody. The team as a whole had a lack of focus. We didn’t clear the ball when we needed to and the offense needed to keep possession. But credit [Carnegie Mellon], they were opportunistic with their chances.”

Brandeis came out of the half with a renewed vigor on the offensive end, applying continuous pressure on the Tartans’ defense as they outshot them 6-2.

Madden made a spectacular save in the 64th minute when he knocked a shot from Kyle Feather ’14 over the crossbar to preserve his team’s 2-1 lead.

Russo had the two best attempts to equalize the game for the Judges late in the second half. In the 77th minute, Russo charged toward the goal on an odd-man break but his shot just missed to the right of the net while in the 89th minute of play, Madden denied Russo once again.

Russo reflected on his career at Brandeis, “We obviously would have preferred a different result. It was a good, competitive game. Just unfortunate that on the last home game of the season we lose our first home game of the year.”

“It hasn’t really resonated with me yet that this was the last home game. I’m still focused on getting to the tournament. Plus, depending on seeding, we could still have another home game,” Russo said.

Minchoff finished the final regular-season game of his career with two saves against two goals allowed, while Madden finished with three saves against one goal allowed.

In addition to Minchoff, this was also the final home game for Russo and Joe Eisenbies ’13; however, Sam Ocel ’13 is expected to return for another season since he obtained a waiver from missing his sophomore season with a medical hardship.

The Judges will finish the regular season on Saturday when they travel to NYU for a match at 1:30 p.m.

While the Judges were unable to clinch the UAA with a win against Carnegie, the game against NYU is just as important. The Judges are still very much alive in their hopes for a berth to the NCAA tournament; however, they now rely on the always unpredictable at-large bid. A win against NYU would go a long way to securing that at-large bid while a loss would throw their postseason hopes into complete chaos.

Russo emphasized, “The team is focusing on the NYU game. We have to treat it like a tournament game. If we were to hypothetically lose the game, our chances wouldn’t be over but they would be lessened. If we win, we’re definitely in. We want to make it something that’s in our control as much as we can make it.”

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