Men’s Soccer Takes NCAA New England Championships, Advances to Elite EightBy Aaron Parness
The MIT men’s soccer team won the New England Championship by beating Williams College last Sunday 2-1 in overtime. The game was the second victory of the weekend for the Engineers; they beat Lassell on Saturday 5-0. The victory advances Tech into the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III National Tournament. This is the first time in MIT history that the team has been invited to the tournament.
Long time coach, Walter Alessi, was thrilled after the game. “After we lost in our conference tournament to Wheaton last Sunday, this team was very, very down,” said Alessi. “At that point, we thought our chances of even getting in the tournament were gone.” Well, one week later, MIT not only is in the tournament but also is fighting for a trip to the Final Four and a shot at the national championship.
“I told these kids the first week of the season that I felt we could beat any team in the country,” Alessi said. “Today, we weren’t intimidated and went out and did just that against a team who has been in these games many, many times.” Williams was ranked third in the country at the end of the regular season, and the game was played at Williams College on a very large field. The extra space gave the Engineers plenty of room to utilize attacks up the wings, a strategy that has created a lot of the team’s goals this year.
MIT gained a few early chances in the game, but were unable to locate the shots on goal. The momentum then swung back and forth between the two teams in an emotional battle. “The level of desire on the field was awesome,” said MIT fan Jason G. Liang ’04. “You could see how hard everyone was playing. It was really exciting to watch.”
Yellow cards were issued to MIT players Doug L. Allaire ’04 and Josef L. Miler ’06 for playing a little too hard, but two yellow cards were also issued to Williams’ players. The game turned in Williams’ favor when forward, Brett Olsen, slid a shot between a swarm of MIT defenders and into the net with 18 minutes left in the game.
MIT bounced back almost immediately, though, scoring just four minutes later while Williams was preparing defensive substitutions on the sidelines. MIT defender Dan Griffith ’05 said, “When we went down a goal, I was pretty worried -- Williams had a really strong team. But once we scored, I knew that we would either score again and win or go into penalty kicks. There was no way we were going to let in another goal.”
MIT’s first goal started when Allaire received a ball far out on the left wing. Allaire then sent a long crossing ball over the defense to team co-captain Nick R. Nestle ’04, who headed the ball past Williams’s goalie, Nick Armington. The score remained tied until the end of regulation because of some excellent play by both Armington and MIT goalie, R. Morgan Mills ’05, who had seven saves in the game including several in the waning minutes of regulation.
The game then went into overtime, and three minutes into the first period, Nestle came up with his second goal of the game to give Tech a sudden victory.
“I saw Robert [Pilawa ’05] serve the ball through to me, but it was a bit too far for me to get too,” said Nestle. “I saw the keeper come out of the box to get it, so I just jumped out in front of him hoping it would hit me. When it fell at my feet, I thought for sure somebody would clean me right out. I just kicked it and hoped it was hard enough. I didn’t want to cut loose with a shot. I’m not as comfortable doing that with my left foot.”
The stroke was true, and the bench rushed the field, swarming Nestle and the other field players.
“This was the most important game I’ve played in,” said Griffith. “And I think that is true for a lot of our team.” The faithful fans and parents also came out onto the field to join the celebration.
“When Nick scored again, I was like ‘Ahhh!’ I started running past all of the Williams students, and all of a sudden, I felt like I went to a real school,” added Liang.
With the win, MIT won the New England Region and will now face the winner of the Northeast Region, Wheaton College. The game will be played at Wheaton’s home field. Despite being located in Massachusetts, Wheaton was bumped out of the region because of the large number of New England teams entering the tournament.
MIT has quite a history with Wheaton this year. The Engineers beat the Wheaton Lyons at Wheaton’s home field during the regular season 4-2. However, the Lyons beat Tech in the conference championship less than two weeks ago in a 3-1 game. The rubber match is sure to be an incredible battle, so come support the team on Saturday and watch some great soccer. Several free fan buses will be traveling to the game from MIT.