The men’s soccer season ended in heartbreaking fashion on Friday night, as the squad fell to Messiah College in the Final Four of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament for the second consecutive year. The loss caps yet another tremendous campaign for the Judges, who will return a talented crop of players next fall. In the final press conference of his first season at the helm, head coach Gabe Margolis summed up the Judges’ emotional season perfectly: “Soccer is a funny game, and a cruel game, and it’s also a great game. Today we were on the wrong end of it, but I can’t say enough about how well our team represented Brandeis University and Brandeis Soccer.”

Judges 2, Messiah 3

Despite several opportunities to hold onto victory, the Judges were unable to stave off Messiah College’s gritty offensive attack in a semifinal matchup that will be remembered for decades. The two perennial powerhouses duked it out in a physical first half of play, with neither team netting a goal. Both squads had five shots in the first 45 minutes of play, but neither could break through before intermission. 

Brandeis finally initiated the scoring in the 60th minute, when defender Sam Vinson ’18 cleaned up a Noah Gans ’21 miss, punching home his first and only goal of the 2017 season. Messiah responded in the 72nd minute, evening the score off a header from freshman midfielder Adam Cole. Cole was able to connect on an uncharacteristically misplayed punch by Judges goalkeeper Ben Woodhouse ’18, who rarely errs in big-time matchups such as this one. Brandeis regained the lead in the 80th minute, when star forward Andrew Allen ’19 netted his sixth goal of the season off a perfectly placed assist from defender Colin Panarra ’20. 

The Judges enjoyed a 2-1 lead for all of 40 seconds, as Messiah’s relentless attack broke down the squad’s defense again in the 80th minute. Messiah evened the score off a beautiful strike from freshman midfielder Kirby Robbins. Despite each team having another solid shot at netting the decisive goal in regulation, neither side was able to keep the match from continuing on past regulation. 

After a relatively uneventful first overtime session, Messiah was finally able to put the Judges away for good with a golden goal from junior defender Justin Brautigam. The shot just barely slipped under the crossbar and out of Woodhouse’s long reach. It was a fittingly dramatic end to the Judges’ storybook season, the squad coming just short of breaking through the semifinals for the second straight year. 

Central to Messiah’s victory was a steady and resilient attack on offense that kept Brandeis on its heels throughout the match. Messiah outshot Brandeis 21-10 by game’s end, with a 7-4 advantage in shots on goal. Messiah outshot Brandeis 8-4 on corners. Despite Brandeis’ defense being its strong suit throughout the past two seasons, the squad was unable to hold onto each of its two leads. That being said, Vinson had a phenomenal showing on Friday night, proving his worth throughout the entirety of the match. Speaking about transferring to Brandeis two seasons ago, Vinson expressed his pleasure with that decision by labeling the past two years “the most fun two years of my life.” 

The Judges end their season with a 17-5 overall record.