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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Men’s Soccer to face Olaf in MIAC finals

<ite a slip up against St. Olaf last Saturday, the men’s soccer team won a share of the MIAC regular season title, and earned the second seed (and a home game) in the conference playoffs.

Coming off a 2-1 overtime win away to St. Thomas, Carleton came to bumpy Rolf Melby Field energized and ready to face their nosy neighbors from across the river. The two sides played an even first half, with Carleton’s best chance coming midway through the half, when Miles Silbert ’12’s long-range shot whizzed just over the crossbar.

Unfortuantely, although the game was tied at half, the Oles started the second half well. Just four minutes after the restart, David Rosenthal ‘14 beat two Carleton defenders at the top of the box and slotted his shot past Carleton keeper James Neher ’14. St. Olaf doubled their lead in the 80th minute, when a save by Neher deflected to Blake Dressen ’12, who put his shot away.

Carleton was given a lifeline in the 86th minute, as Tim Wills ’12 scored off of a penalty kick to give the Knights a glimmer of hope to find a miraculous equalizer. However, the Oles soon shattered that hope, when a shot from Jake Stark ’14 took a funny bounce over Neher’s outstretched arms and inside the far post.

Despite the 3-1 loss, Carleton players were ecstatic to hear the incoming reports of Gustavus’ draw against Macalester, which meant that the Knights had clinched a share of the MIAC regular-season title, their first since 2009 and their fourth title in the last five years. With the two seed, the Knights earned at least one home game in the MIAC playoffs.

On Wednesday, Carleton welcomed Gustavus Adolphus to Bell Field in the semi-final of the MIAC playoffs. The Knights’ previous encounter against the Gusties ended in a goalless draw, with plenty of action and scoring chances for both teams. Gustavus boasted a stingy defense that had only given up seven goals in the conference, while the Knights had the attacking quartet of Wills, Silbert, Ryan Cammarota ’12, and Will Corcoran ’14, who troubled the Gusties’ defense consistently during their last encounter.

The Knights came out flying right from the start, with Neil Bartholomay ’14 winning every aerial duel against Gustavus’ forwards. Bartholomay nearly scored in the 14th minute off of a corner kick, but Gustie keeper Brett Ylonen ’15 saved the effort to keep the game scoreless. The Knights, however, would find the breakthrough just a minute later, when freshman phenomenon Nathan Park ’15 hit an exquisite curling ball with the outside of his right foot.Corcoran received the ball and exploited a large gap in the Gusties’ defense, sending a left-footed cross towards Wills. Wills expertly delayed his run for a slight moment to give himself space from his defender, and his thunderous header glanced off the bottom of the crossbar and into the back of the net to hand Carleton a highly deserved lead. This was Wills’ ninth goal of the season, and his 101st career point, a remarkable achievement.

With their backs against the wall, Gustavus dominated possession in the second half, but managed to threaten the Knights’ defense only on a few occasions. Devin Tomson-Moylan ’15 and Bartholomay did a phenomenal job to handle a Gustavus attack that had led the MIAC in scoring during the regular season, and when a Gustavus forward managed to sneak behind the two towering centerbacks, Derek Funk ’13 made a goal-saving slide tackle to keep the Knights’ shutout intact. With ten minutes left, the Gusties had another good chance when Kyle Sadler ’12 blasted a shot from the top of the box, but Neher parried his shot over the bar. The Knights did manage to create a few opportunities, and in the 66th minute, Silbert nearly scored off of a Cammarota free kick. Ten minutes later, Cammarota waltzed through the Gustavus defense and played in Wills, who dribbled past Ylonen and returned the ball to an open Cammarota at the top of the six-yard box. But Cammarota’s volley went over the bar, and Gustavus continued to press for the rest of the game. Fortunately, the Knights resisted the Gusties’ onslaught to earn a rematch against St. Olaf in the final of the MIAC playoffs. The defeat snapped a twelve game unbeaten run for the Gusties, who will have to wait until Monday to see whether the NCAA will grant them an at-large bid to the NCAA championships.

For the Knights, however, a rematch against the Oles is a chance to get the last laugh as well as receive the MIAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Fans are encouraged to come out in droves across the river to cheer on the Knights as they compete to win the MIAC playoff championship for a second time in the program’s history and the first time since 2008. The match begins at 1 p.m.

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