Club advances to Final Four bracket
The men’s soccer team has hit its stride at the perfect time, winning both of its postseason matches this past weekend to earn a Final Four berth for the first time in over 30 years. Though the squad’s offensive shortcomings were the biggest storyline from the regular season, coach Mike Coven and his staff have made the necessary changes to get the Judges’ attack rolling.
Judges 1, Amherst 1 (3-1)
The Judges started the weekend with a Saturday match against host Amherst College, a longtime rival and frequent postseason foe. The Judges jumped out to a quick lead, striking first in the 18th minute off of a blast from forward Evan Jastremski ’17. The goal was set up perfectly by defenseman Stephen DePietto ’19. The goal was Jastremski’s fifth of the season and first in this year’s postseason play.
Amherst tied the game in the 56th minute, when sophomore forward Fikayo Ajayi rocketed the ball past Judges goalie Ben Woodhouse ’18. Ajayi’s goal was assisted by fellow senior forward Christopher Martin. The Judges had a solid chance to put the game away late in regulation, when forward Andrew Allen ’19 faked his defender and narrowly missed what would have been the game’s decisive goal.
Neither team was able to score in either of the overtime periods.
Penalty kicks started with an acrobatic save from Woodhouse, whose heroics rescued the Judges. Following Woodhouse’s save, forward Mike Lynch ’17 confidently stepped into the box and blasted home a beautiful shot, giving the Judges a 1-0 advantage. Amherst converted its second penalty kick, only to be matched by Brandeis’ Josh Berg ’18. After another phenomenal Woodhouse save, the Judges were unable to put the game away in the third round of penalty kicks. But, as he has done all season, Woodhouse maintained his composure and once again gave the Judges a chance to pull off the epic upset with perhaps his most spectacular save to date. With ice water in his veins, veteran forward Zach Vieira ’17 stepped into the box and converted on the decisive kick, sending the Judges into a jubilant frenzy.
Despite being outshot 20-12 in regulation, the Judges managed to stave off several Amherst runs and ultimately pull out a victory that few saw coming. Woodhouse was the unquestioned star of the match, coming up with a career-high 10 saves, none bigger than those collected in the long overtime and during the tense penalty kicks.
Judges 4, Rutgers-Newark 2
The Judges then squared off in an Elite Eight matchup against Rutgers-Newark, pulling off yet another upset in rather uncharacteristic fashion. The Judges’ balanced offensive barrage left many wondering where this sort of balanced attack has been all season.
While Woodhouse served as savior on Saturday, Lynch was the hero for the Judges on Sunday. Lynch scored twice in the span of 59 seconds, just after being substituted into the game midway through the first half. As if that was not enough, reserve forward Josh Handler ’19 got in on the action, putting an on-the-money set-up from star forward Josh Ocel ’17 through the net in the 66th minute. Ocel notched a goal of his own shortly thereafter.
Though Rutgers-Newark tested the Judges at points throughout the match, the squad had a relatively easy time controlling the pace of play during the game.
Looking ahead, the Judges will face off against Calvin College in the NCAA Final Four in Salem, Virginia on Dec. 2. The squad looks to ride this wave of momentum all the way to a national championship parade up and down Loop Road.