Men's Soccer Tops Babson, 1-6By Sasha Mitelman
With a remarkable display of tight marking, timely scoring, and strong team defense, the men's soccer team defeated nationally-ranked Babson College 1-0 on Tuesday. The victory was the Engineers" first ever against Babson, who were ranked first in New England and sixth in the nation among all NCAA Division III teams.
"We caught everybody by surprise today," said an ecstatic Walter Alessi, who has coached the team for the 17 years. "We had a lot of young players on the field today, but everyone worked hard and we had a few breaks." Alessi said that while the game was close and could have gone either way, the Engineers certainly deserved the win.
Playing with the wind at their backs for the first half, the Engineers began strongly, led by the aggressive and consistent play of co-captain Jason Grapski '94 in the midfield and sweeper Sammy Farah '94 in the back. Alessi also credited the exceptional man-marking of outside backs Brian DiVasta '95 and Joe Wenisch '96, who had the difficult task of marking Babson's speedy and constantly-switching forwards. MIT played such tight defense in the first half that goalkeeper Raja Jindal '95 only had to make a handful of saves.
The lone goal came in the 21st minute of the first half. Attila Lengyel '94 won the ball from a defender on the left side of the penalty box, sped to the endline and crossed to Alan Love '95 at the near post. Love, sprinting across from the right, managed to beat three defenders to the ball and pushed a perfectly-placed left-footed shot past the Babson goalkeeper to give MIT the lead.
Forward Dave Roberts '95 nearly gave the Engineers another goal shortly before the end of the half with a sharp attack up the right side, but after beating two defenders on the run he put his shot inches wide of the goal. With Roberts and Lengyel applying constant pressure to the opponents' defense, Babson was unable to create any further opportunities and spent the rest of the half unsuccessfully trying to move the ball upfield.
The tougher second half found the Engineers staring into both the sun and a strong wind. Babson controlled the ball most of the period, repeatedly sending balls into the corners for their forwards. MIT's defense, however, was equal to the task. Led by tough tackling by the backs and dominant play in the air by Grapski and Paul Mashikian '95, the Engineers cut off most of Babson's chances.
"We played the best defensive game I've ever seen," Grapski said. "They couldn't do anything because we didn't give them any time to think." The few times Babson was able to create dangerous chances in the offensive third, Jindal was flawless, making diving saves to preserve the lead.
MIT had a chance to put the game out of reach five minutes from time when Roberts, seeing the Babson sweeper out of position, found Grapski streaking down the right side with a perfect through ball. Grapski raced into the Babson penalty area and pushed the ball to the far post, but the long grass slowed the ball just enough to enable the Babson goalkeeper to make a save. It didn't matter, though, as the MIT defense cleared the last dangerous cross mere seconds from time, assuring the victory.
The Engineers snapped a four-game losing streak and kept their perfect home record intact. After three tough road losses in which they played somewhat short of potential, the Engineers showed promise in an encouraging game against Trinity, despite losing 4-3 last Saturday. Tuesday was a continuation of that trend. Love, whose game-winner against Babson was his first of the season, said, "We've been pulling it together for the last few games and it all came together against Babson."
The Engineers, hoping to continue their winning ways after what is certainly the biggest game of the year, face Union College at home on Saturday at 2 p.m.