Max Jones '16 (#13, main photo) picked the perfect time for his first goal of the season as he tucked a shot into the lower left corner of the net in the 71st minute to give the #2-seeded Cardinals a 1-0 victory over #7 Connecticut College in a NESCAC men’s soccer quarterfinal Sat., Nov. 2.
Jones took a feed from Brandon Sousa '16, beat one man going to his right, and then fired a low shot that just beat the Conn goalie as he dove to his right. It was the second assist of the season for Sousa.
The two teams spent most of the first half trading goal kicks, as neither could muster many quality scoring opportunities. The Cardinals may have had their best chance to score in the half just seven minutes in when Chris Kafina '16 ripped a low screamer to the right of the keeper from 10 yards, but the goalie moved over to make the save.
The best Conn chance of the half came on a corner kick with 12:30 left as the curving shot headed for the top left corner of the goal but was punched out by keeper Emmett McConnell '15 (#30, photo upper right).
Wesleyan, now 9-5-1, held the advantage in shots in the period, 5-4, but the Camels had the only four corner kicks of the period.
The Cardinals came out strong in the second half and nearly scored in the first 10 minutes when a crossing pass from Omar Bravo '15 was flicked high on goal by Matt Lynch '15, but the Camel keeper leaped high to snare the attempt.
Conn College, which finished 8-5-2, had its best chance of the game with 26:55 left on a corner kick that was headed toward the goal. The try just deflected off the crossbar, and the Cardinals were able to clear the rebound. The only other serious challenge by the Camels came with 9:30 left on a breakaway but Ben Toulotte '16 managed to recover defensively for Wesleyan and stuffed the attempt, allowing the defense to clear.
Conn outshot Wesleyan, 11-9, in the game, but Wesleyan managed to put six on goal to just five for the Camels. Both goalies registered five saves. McConnell, with his seventh shutout of the year, extended his streak of scoreless minutes to 437:13 over the last five games.
The Cardinals advanced to the tournament semifinals and faced #3-seeded Williams at Amherst College on Sat., Nov. 9. Top-seeded Amherst took on Bowdoin in the other semifinal. Williams built a 2-0 lead in the second half before Sousa scored in the 85th minute to make it a 2-1 game, but the Ephs hung on to advance to the championship game against Amherst, a 2-1 double-overtime victor over Bowdoin.
Williams scored on a low, bounding shot from the right side in the 34th minute to take the lead for good and added what proved to be the winner in the 83rd minute. Wesleyan countered just two minutes later when Sousa converted a Daniel Issroff '15 pass to the left side into his second goal of the season. Wesleyan continued to apply pressure in the closing minutes. A free kick just before the final horn led to a smart header by Matt Lynch '15 from 12 yards out but the ball sailed over the net. Wesleyan's best scoring chance of the first half came in the final minute when Charlie Gruner '17 moved central and had an open shot straight on from 18 yards out, but the ball went wide right. Williams held a 13-10 edge in total shots, 6-4 in shots on goal. McConnell came up with four saves, three of them stellar blocks of well-conceived Ephs scoring chances.
On Monday, Wesleyan found out its 9-6-1 overall record wasn't enough to warrant its sixth trip to the NCAAs in the last nine seasons. Only champion Amherst, which downed Williams in the title game, 1-0, and runner-up Williams made the NCAA field from the NESCAC.
(photos by Peter Stein '84)