Men's soccer defeats Fordham to advance

by Alexander Agadjanian | 11/20/14 5:05pm

Screen-Shot-2014-11-20-at-11.03.44-PM
The men's soccer team defeated Fordham 2-1 to move on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
by Blaze Joel / Blaze Joel/The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Alex Adelabu ’15 played the role of hero once again for men’s soccer team on Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The senior and leading scorer notched the go-ahead goal in the 87th minute to lift Dartmouth to a 2-1 victory over Fordham University and into the second round.

In its first tournament appearance since 2011 and first time hosting a postseason game since 2008, the Big Green encountered a team it had already defeated at Burnham Field nearly two months ago. This time around, the Rams were coming off a blazing three-game win streak in the Atlantic-10 Tournament to punch their ticket to the NCAA tourney.

Dartmouth head coach Chad Riley said that familiarity factored into the course of the game.

“I think it probably let both teams know each other a little bit better, and maybe it made tighter of a game,” he said.

In the early stages of the match on Thursday night, Dartmouth had the majority of the offensive chances. Despite the pressure, Fordham piled back in its own half, warding off any potential threats and slowing the game down.

However, the Big Green had numerous close misses in the opening 45 minutes, including three balls that ricocheted off the post. Amid a counterattack on the 12th minute, Robin Alnas ’15 found Adelabu streaking down the left inside the goalie box with a clear look on frame, but the senior’s strike smacked off the near goalpost and across the goal line.

Nearing the end of the half, the Big Green concocted two more dangerous chances, both again thwarted by the woodwork. On the 38th minute, midfielder Colin Heffron ’15 dribbled along the edge of the goalie box and fired a shot that plunked off the post. Seven minutes later and as the half closed, cohesive combinations and a give-and-go allowed Matt Greer ’18 to spring loose deep down the right flank. The ground cross evaded the outstretched legs of the opposing goalkeeper, but Fordham junior defender Ryan Cupolo dove to deflect the ball, eventually tapping off the goalpost and into the hands of the goalie.

“You don’t feel great when you hit the post a couple of times,” Riley said. “At the same time, you put that out of your head and you feel good when you’re making chances, but you do know you’re not going to make a million of them so you got to start putting them away.”

Dartmouth seized the first lead of the game on the 61st minute. After controlling a pass from the air, Adelabu flicked the ball back up and towards the net. Matt Danilack ’18 got a head on the ball first, knocking it to Alnas who ripped it into the goal from just outside the six-yard box.

Though the Big Green maintained offensive pressure even after grabbing an advantage, Fordham shocked the hosts with a 79th minute header to level the score. Off a free kick by Aleksandar Mastilovic, Ram freshman defender Christopher Bazzini headed the ball back on the left side of the frame. Dartmouth goalie Stefan Cleveland ’16 extended to his right and got a hand on the ball, but could only deflect it off the post and into his own net.

“After we took the lead, we could have done a better job keeping the ball,” Adelabu said. “We just knew if we kicked the ball like we did before they scored, we would put the game away.”

Just nine minutes later, Dartmouth seized momentum back from the Rams. After a few combinations on the right flank, Heffron centered the ball to Danilack at the top of the box. In what would ultimately result in his second assist of the night, Danilack tapped the ball to Adelabu in the middle of the box. With his back to the frame, the senior striker took a sharp, decisive turn to his left, and blasted home the game winner in the top right corner of the goal.

“I reacted to it really quickly and just fired it in,” Adelabu said. “The ball came in to my right, so it was always the fastest way because I wanted to be on my shooting foot, and I just flicked it to the right.”

Although several Ram defenders seemed to cover Adelabu, Danilack felt confident in delivering the pass that would eventually produce the game-winning strike.

“I always trust Alex to shield the defenders,” Danilack said. “He’s a big strong kid, so you know he’s always going to shield them off and he turns really well.”

The Big Green will now travel to Providence, Rhode Island on Sunday, for a NCAA Tournament second round matchup at 7:00 against the 11th-seeded Providence College Friars.

“We’re obviously thrilled to be able to play together and compete together for another day,” Riley said. “To get a victory was certainly a difficult thing, but we’re very happy we get to play again.”