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Men’s soccer defeats NYU; returns to NCAA tournament

By Brian Tabakin

Section: Sports

November 9, 2012

The 17th-ranked Brandeis men’s soccer team defeated NYU 1-0 in the regular season finale Nov. 3. With the win, the Judges finish the season with a record of 16-2-1 (4-2-1 UAA) and a four-way share of the UAA title for the first time ever.

A bizarre series of events led Brandeis, Washington University St. Louis, Emory and Carnegie Mellon to share the UAA title. After Brandeis earned the win over NYU, Washington and Chicago battled to a scoreless draw. Shortly after that match ended, Emory defeated Carnegie Mellon, causing each team to finish with 13 points in conference play.

Carnegie Mellon earned the automatic NCAA berth by virtue of their 2-1 record against the other teams tied for the title and their head-to-head tiebreaker against the Judges.

Prior to this year, Brandeis’ best UAA finish was second place, accomplished in 1990, 1997 and 2002. This season also marked the fourth time in program history that the Judges won 16 games or more. Previous years include 1981 (17-3-1), 1984 (19-5) and 1985 (17-3). The 1981 and 1984 teams both reached the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, reaching third place and national runner-up respectively. The Judges’ singular national title came in 1976 when the team finished 15-2.

In the first half of the game against NYU, the Judges struggled with their offense as they were outshot 6-1 by the Violets and were called for eight fouls, compared to just one for NYU. Blake Minchoff ’13 kept the Judges in the game, making two key saves to keep NYU off the board while the Judges tried to get their offense going.

Tyler Savonen ’15 thought the Judges were trying to do too much in the first half. “We always knew what was at stake. We had to win. We tried to stay calm since we knew we were better than NYU. In the second half, we just played our game and we won.”

After a listless first half, the Judges turned up their offensive pressure in the second half and took eight of the first nine shots before finally getting on the scoreboard.

In the 63rd minute, after an offensive burst of three shots at the net that produced two blocked shots and one that sailed wide to the right, the Judges earned a corner kick. In the 67th minute, Lee Russo ’13 put the ball in play and it bounced off the head of Sam Ocel ’13 and past the NYU keeper to put the Judges on top 1-0.

The goal was Ocel’s 10th of the season and his UAA-leading seventh game-winning goal of the campaign. In combination with Russo, the Judges have had two 10-goal scorers in a single season for the first time since 1994.

After the goal, the Brandeis defense did their job as they shut out the Violets to preserve the 1-0 victory.

On Monday after their win over NYU, the Judges gained an at-large berth into the Division III NCAA tournament for the first time since 1985. With their season record of 16-2-1, the Judges have earned the right to host first and second-round games.

Savonen stressed the importance of playing home games: “We’ve had great success here with the fans and Coven’s Corner. If I was the other team I wouldn’t want to play at a place where I had 100 fans screaming at me.”

Their first matchup will be against the Baruch College Bearcats, winners of the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC), Saturday at 5 p.m.

Savonen acknowledged that the Judges don’t really know a whole lot about the Bearcats. “We try not to look into the opponents too much. We just focus on playing our game and executing.”

The Judges will bring the UAA’s top-scoring offense into the matchup, having scored a staggering 48 goals in 19 games. Lee Russo ’13 and Sam Ocel ’13 were the top-two scorers in the UAA with 31 and 28 points, respectively, and are both on the Judges’ top-20 all-time scoring list.

This will be the first time that the Judges and Bearcats face off. The Bearcats return to the tournament for the first time since 2006. Oren Kozilowski led the team with 13 goals and five assists during the season, for a total of 31 points, while as a team the Bearcats scored 44 goals in 19 contests.

The only common opponent the Judges and Bearcats faced this season was NYU: the Judges won a tight 1-0 match while the Bearcats lost 4-0 on Sept. 15.

Immediately following the match between Brandeis and Baruch, Tufts University will play Vassar College. The winners of each match will face each other in the second round Sunday, Nov. 11 at 5 p.m.

The Judges’ side of the bracket is filled with some heavy hitters but Savonen and the team do not lack confidence. “Every section of the bracket has heavy hitters. I like to think we can play with them and that’s the mindset we have. I think we can win a national title.”
For the tournament, students will need tickets. It costs $6 for the general public, $3 for students and is free for Brandeis students with ID.

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