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Men's Soccer Beats Coast Guard in Semis

By Brian Chase

COLUMNIST

It took two overtimes and a banner day by midfielder Walter Song ’06, but MIT qualified for the finals of the NEWMAC men’s soccer tournament after beating the U.S. Coast Guard Academy 2-1 in the semifinals.

MIT came into the semifinal game the heavy favorite after going undefeated in regular conference play, including a four goal stomping of the Coast Guard last week. MIT won the regular season title and had three players in the top ten scorers in the conference in both points per game and goals per game: Nick R. Nestle ’04, Jose-Ramon Torradas ’05, and Alex Morgan ’07.

But the start of the game definitely did not go the way MIT had planned. The opening half saw the Coast Guard playing an aggressive offense that kept the ball on the MIT half of the field most of the time, limiting MIT’s chances to score. The Coast Guard was aided by the wind, which was blowing against MIT and kept their defenders from clearing the ball well. But even then, the Coast Guard’s first goal didn’t come until 24:35 in the first half, when Jared Silverman of the Coast Guard kicked the ball past lunging MIT goalie Morgan Mills. As the Coast Guard celebrated, MIT looked frustrated and surprised at the situation they found themselves in.

“We were getting kind of scared for a little bit, but we knew everybody’d pick it up... We weren’t going to go out like that,” midfielder Song said. He wouldn’t let them.

Song was the only other player to score the entire game, and he was the one to tie it with 22:02 remaining in the second half. Song was aided by the wind, now blowing against the Coast Guard, and also by Jose-Ramon Torradas, who was credited with the assist. Song scored up in the far corner of the goal, past Coast Guard goalkeeper Phil MacArthur. The rest of the game was a taut back-and-forth match, which saw a lot of good defensive play, just the kind of game that thwarts the fast-break scoring opportunities MIT excels at. Both goalkeepers, MacArthur and Mills, made good saves, but MacArthur had more to do, as MIT had 17 shots on goal, of which MacArthur saw 10. Mills only had to deal with 6 shots, and he made only 4 saves.

The first overtime period saw several close calls by MIT and no serious threats by the Coast Guard. It wasn’t until 1:21 into the second overtime that Song, again on an assist by Torradas, sent a ball across MacArthur for the game-winning score. MIT broke into relieved cheers, and the Coast Guard trudged tiredly to the stands. The win put MIT into the Finals of the NEWMAC conference tournament against Wheaton.

After the game, Song admitted being slightly surprised by the toughness shown by the Coast Guard Academy. MIT coach Walter Alessi, however, noted, “I knew it was going to be a tough game. ... I told the team all week long that ... it would be a one-goal game.” He also thought the MIT players expected to win the game coming in and that expectancy, in addition to having no mid-week game, contributed to their slow start in the first half. When asked about Song, Alessi said, “He’s the heart and soul of our midfield. He makes plays for us. ... I’m happy he’s a sophomore!” If MIT can get two more years of performances like this one from Song, Coach Alessi has every right to be happy.