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Undefeated Men’s Soccer Improves to 9-0

By Curtis Zunyu He

Section: Sports

October 3, 2014

On Tuesday, Sept. 30, as the countdown raced through seconds, the soccer ball was kicked from the Judges’ side far toward the Wheaton Lyons’ side. This moment was another triumph in a series of wins, bringing the Brandeis men’s soccer team to a 9-0 record. Although the early regional dominance from the Judges can be seen nearly every season before the UAA matches (seven wins in a row in 2013, eight wins in a row in 2012), this impeccable record has finally shown how the Judges players have surpassed their limits in every aspect of the game.

On Sept. 20, during an impressive first half against the Tufts Jumbos, Brandeis seemed to shake off the shadowy memory of how the Jumbos forced the Judges to end a seven-game winning streak last year. Here, rising star Josh Ocel ’17 presented another crucial performance. He initiated two well-placed long passes from the corner to finally pierce the Jumbos’ defense. He also created two lethal late goals.

“The new formation allows me to get forward more frequently and be more effective on the counter attack. With two defensive center midfielders behind me, I am confident that we will get the job done defensively, giving myself and the forwards time on the ball allowing us to attack more effectively as a unit,” said Ocel.

A similar scenario happened again on Tuesday against the Wheaton Lyons. This time, Evan Jastremski ’17 snatched a chance from the right wing to accurately locate Michael Soboff ’15 among three opponent defenders. Soboff used another late goal to drag the number-one New England team down.

Ocel and Jastremski are both highly prospective sophomore players on the team, along with Zach Viera ’17 and Mike Lynch ’17, who are performing outstandingly as well. “Mike Lynch, Zach Viera and Evan Jastremski have all been playing a lot at the wing position, and all three of them have been the key to our success,” Ocel said. At this point, this “sophomore squad” has notched seven goals and 12 assists in total to become the most pivotal force in the midfield. “I think our class has had a lot of success because we all have a year under our belt and we all knew we would have to step up and play a bigger role with the team this year,” Ocel said. This personal breakthrough from these players may have contributed greatly to the team’s current sweeping performance toward the UAA games.

However, the impenetrable defense of the Judges should not be overlooked, especially in the victory over Wheaton. The Lyons are known as one of the best offensive teams throughout New England, with a previous average of 3.4 goals per game. The Lyons were held off massively, and were only able to land one shot on goal to challenge the Judges’ goalie Joe Graffy ’15. Defender Conor Lanahan ’16 played a significant role in the back field to shut down the overall taller players from the Jumbos. Lanahan intercepted several threatening passes both in the air and on the ground. The seemingly fierce attack seemed pointless, as the ball was never able to penetrate the middle. In fact, it has already been almost a month since the Judges lost a goal to the opposing team.

The emphasis on defense is tied to another key factor of the Judges’ success this season—physicality. During the game against Wheaton, the Judges committed 22 fouls in total on the opponent players. “We try not to play dirty and commit bad fouls, but physicality is a big part of game, especially in the midfield,” said Ocel. After Tuesday night, the Judges have averaged two more fouls than opponent teams in every game they played, showing their strong pressure on the offensive. While Ocel viewed physicality as a big part of the game, Soboff described the conflict to be “the beautiful thing about the big rivalry … I guess it goes back for a long time, our coach versus their coach, and we know a lot of the boys on their team, so it’s always going to be like that.”

The players will face other old rivals, as they are about to enter the second phase of games: the long-awaited University Athletic Association matches. Case Western Reserve University play at Brandeis on Sunday, Oct. 5 at 11 a.m. Despite a mediocre record so far from the next opponent, Ocel and the team have never underestimated any team they are facing. “ … We take the season one game at a time, so our season right now is Case Western, another very strong opponent,” said Ocel. On the road to reach the 1985 record of a 15-game winning streak, every single game will certainly become more challenging and demanding for the Judges. But with a perfect 9-0 record, the rise of the sophomore squad and the tenacious defense and brisk counterattack, the Judges are a threat to others as well.

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