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Men’s soccer returns to Sweet 16

By Curtis Zunyu He

Section: Sports, Top Stories

November 20, 2014

The Brandeis men’s soccer team fed off the energy of a large crowd Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Judges defeated Husson University 3-0 and moved on to the second round of the tournament.

The first goal came on the second shot of the game when Michael Soboff ’15 ripped a shot to the middle of the net for his seventh goal of the season. Then with a minute left to go in the first half Jake Picard ’16 gave the Judges some security with Brandeis’ second goal of the game. The Judges headed into half-time with a 2-0 lead, outshooting Husson 18-3. The third and final goal for the Judges in the shutout came in the 80th minute when Picard deflected his teammate Brandon Miskin’s ’18 corner kick with his hip.

Brandeis outshot Husson 29-5 and recorded their 15th shutout of the season, setting a new program record.

On Saturday night, Gordon Field was once again filled by the spirit of “We the Jury” from cheering Brandeis fans. And with the sweet home atmosphere, the Judges managed to march back into the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row. The team secured this victory against Bowdoin College by a late game-winning header from midfielder Brandon Miskin ’18. The Judges rose to a record of 19-2 and will continue their journey to the Sweet 16.

Although the Judges seemed to lead the ball possession and attack attempts in the first half, they found very few chances through the tenacious defense from the Bowdoin College Polar Bears. Josh Ocel ’17, Zach Vieira ’17, Mike Lynch ’17 and Evan Jastremski ’17 on the left wing were all struggling under the aggressive pressure from the Polar Bears pushing them towards the out of bounds line. Bowdoin defender Sam White ’16 was effective in intercepting the Judges’ transition from wings to the middle. Also, the attempts of long passes and long-range shots still couldn’t find the Judges a way to breakthrough as 18 shots were fired in total with only five of them on goal.

Moreover, the physicality of the game seemed to create even bigger trouble when Zach Vieira ’17 fought hard for a header with two defenders and fell hard on the ground. He was substituted soon after, along with other starters such as Michael Soboff ’15 and Josh Ocel ’17 and the Jury started to worry about their team’s fate. However, these doubts were totally dispelled in the second half when the Judges came back into action with all of the starters full of energy. Vieira wasn’t even bothered by the dangerous fall in the first half as he kept on chasing after the ball, “physical play isn’t something our team is shy of so I think we can play physically and then use our skill to avoid anything unnecessary.” The incessant flows of attack finally created a hole in Bowdoin’s defense when Ocel caught the attention of the defenders inside the penalty area and located Miskin ’18 who notched the tough header beautifully. “We didn’t really make any adjustments. We knew that we were the better team and that if we continued to play our possession style game we’d eventually break through.” The brimming confidence of the team from Vieira’s words definitely boosted the players’ energy as well. As Vieira again said, “The last week of the regular season was definitely focused on more shooting drills. We need to finish when we have the chance so we’ve been working a lot on that.”

Mobility was another reason the Judges managed to create more chances with high quality. Vieira and Ocel were constantly shifting between each other from left wing to right wing instead of sticking to one side. Clearly the defenders weren’t ready for the sudden changes and the three corner kicks created in the second half were the most visible results of the Judges’ successful strategy. However, the team still has space to improve themselves in shooting and finishing. Michael Soboff ’15 and Tyler Savonen ’15 combined with only one shot on goal for seven attempts. However, the recent training has been “focusing on more shooting drills” according to Vieira. Miskin’s lethal header was actually a perfect showcase of the diligent training.

The shooting drills will absolutely be significant for the next game against Amherst College as “we are going to see a far more physical team than them with Amherst coming up” according to Vieira. Not only will accuracy matter, more shining moments from young players like Miskin ’18 on Sunday night would also be huge for the Judges. Going into the third round the Judges have no fear, only focus. “We know we can beat Amherst if we control the flow of play. Everyone is incredibly focused, because for the seniors this will be the [last] third round of 16 and this time we are looking to get through,” said Vieira. Hopefully, the confidence and diligence will pay off for the Judges when they play Amherst College in Oneonta, NY at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday.

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