November 25, 2013

NCAA Sectional review: New England and East

By Ryan Harmanis, D3soccer.com

After an exhilarating weekend of play, the 2013 Final Four is set: #2 Rutgers-Camden, #3 Messiah, #6 Loras and Williams will head to San Antonio only two wins away from the title.  Rutgers-Camden is the only new face, as the other three are returning after appearances in 2012.  Let’s take a brief look at this weekend’s games and how each team made it to the Final Four.

New England Region

 
The Williams College men's team is on the way to San Antonio.
Williams athletics photo. 

Williams 2, Brandeis 0

As previously mentioned heading into the weekend, the New England Sectional put multiple rematches from the 2012 on tap.  Everyone came to Amherst wanting a shot at Williams, and #20 Brandeis had the first opportunity.  The Ephs were up to the challenge and won a tough game 2–0 behind a set-piece goal from Chris Conder in the first half and an insurance tally from Mohammed Rashid late in the second. 

Amherst 2, St. Lawrence 1 (2OT)

Amherst took the field with the knowledge that victory meant another matchup with Williams.  It therefore came as no surprise when the Lord Jeffs came out flying against St. Lawrence before scraping by 2–1 in overtime.  Amherst piled up a 10–2 shot advantage in the first half and eventually took a 1–0 lead early in the second.  St. Lawrence would not go quietly, dominating the remainder of the game and tying it with only 44 seconds remaining on an absolute bomb from Austin Roney.  The momentum carried into overtime and SLU nearly won it as another long-distance rocket cannoned back off the post.  The Saints would regret the missed rebound, as Greg Singer tallied his second of the day to power Amherst into the Elite 8.

Williams 1, Amherst 0

In the end, a 2012 Elite 8 rematch at the same stage was inevitable.  This game came loaded with storylines: six meetings in two years, Amherst undefeated (3–0–2) but falling in penalties in 2012, Williams riding a hot streak but yet to defeat the Lord Jeffs.  Something had to give, and in the end Williams put forth its most impressive effort of the season to prevail 1-0 and become the first team to punch its ticket to San Antonio.

In the previous five meetings, Amherst dominated statistically: three wins and two ties, an average advantage of 20–10 in shots (6–2 on goal), Williams had yet to even score a goal.  All of that changed Sunday afternoon, as 40-mph winds did not look kindly upon Amherst’s direct style of play.  Despite having a goal disallowed, the Lord Jeffs had goalkeeper Thomas Bull to thank for keeping the Ephs off the board.  However, in the second half Chris Conder continued his magical postseason run.  After notching four assists last weekend, the junior scored his second set-piece goal in two days for the game winner and a second straight trip to Division III’s marquee weekend.

East Region

Messiah 2, Kenyon 1

With #1 Ohio Wesleyan and #14 Wheaton (Ill.) out of the way, Messiah hosted the East Region as heavy favorites to return to Texas.  The opening matched doubled as the weekend’s only exciting one, with Messiah scoring late to sneak past Kenyon 2–1.  As we noted ahead of time, the Lords received the best preparation possible by traveling to OWU twice and acquitting themselves well.  That education proved invaluable, as the Falcons followed the same script used by OWU to score within the first five minutes of the game.  The Lords would not be rattled, and came storming back to provide Messiah its toughest test of the tournament.

First, Kenyon benefitted from a mix-up between the Messiah defense and goalkeeper to equalize heading into halftime.  A similar miscue had led to Kenyon’s exit in 2010; would it now allow them to take down the champions?  In a development that shocked Messiah’s suddenly nervous announcers, Kenyon controlled the opening 30 minutes of the second half.  However, when you have the chance to beat the champions you only get one shot, and the Lords missed theirs via a sitter with about 15 minutes remaining.  The Falcons would make them pay and retook control of the game, with junior Jack Thompson leading an onslaught on Kenyon’s goal.  The pressure paid off as Brian Ramirez notched an excellent individual goal for the win with 90 seconds remaining.

 
Messiah raced ahead 4-0 and left Franklin & Marshall behind en route to the Final Four.
Michael Salerno, D3soccer.com

Franklin & Marshall 3, Rose-Hulman 0

In Saturday’s second game, Franklin & Marshall cruised to a 3–0 win over Cinderella Rose-Hulman.  Having ridden an incredible defense (and no small amount of luck) through the first two rounds, F&M put any thought of a third upset to bed as Ben Beaver tallied his 14th and 15th goals of the season to give the Diplomats a shot at Messiah.

Messiah 4, Franklin & Marshall 1

Messiah left nothing to doubt on Sunday, dominating F&M 4–1 to return to San Antonio.  One of the defining characteristics of the champions is depth: Messiah uses 20+ players nearly every game to wear opponents down.  Such an edge is magnified when teams play back-to-back days, and Messiah simply overpowered the Diplomats.  Joshua Wood led the way with a first-half goal (his 21st of the season) and three second-half scores put the game to bed before F&M scored a consolation.  

No contests today.
No contests today.
No contests today.