Men’s soccer clinches NCAA berth
As the horn sounded on the final regular season game, the men’s soccer team was greeted on one side by fellow players on the bench, and on the other by zealous fans charging onto the pitch. For the first time in three years, the Big Green captured a share of the Ivy League title Saturday night by defeating the Brown University Bears 3-0, and by virtue of a tiebreaker atop the standings, a berth in the NCAA tournament as well.
Earlier in the day, Princeton University beat Yale University 1-0 to clinch a piece of the Ivy League title. Since Dartmouth beat Princeton in its Ivy League opener, however, the Big Green held the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Tigers. Dartmouth received an automatic bid to the NCAAs while Princeton must wait and hope for an at-large bid.
Dartmouth (11-4-2, 5-1-1 Ivy) started the match with energy and authority. As part of a dominant opening half, the Big Green possessed the majority of the early offensive chances. The team developed its attacks particularly on the right flank, a tendency that continued throughout the first 45 minutes. Eventually, the cooperative movement on the right would come to fruition.
The first dangerous opportunity occurred in the 10th minute, as Stefan Defregger ’15 set up a run for Tyler Dowse ’18 on the right side inside the goalie box. As Alex Adelabu ’15 ran alongside his teammate in front of the goal, Dowse could not effectively deliver the ball to the team’s striker. But the foundation had been set: this same combination, between Defregger, Dowse and Adelabu, would produce the first goal of the game two minutes later.
In a very similar offensive push on the 12th minute, Defregger fed Dowse the ball on the right flank. From outside the box, Dowse slid the ball to Adelabu who quickly poked the ball past the Brown goalkeeper in the right corner of the goal.
Head coach Chad Riley said he recognized the opportunities on the right side of the field, noting how an injury to a usual Brown starter in this area might have helped his team’s effort.
“I think we’ve done well there. We kind of saw that as a place to get after them,” Riley said. “They had the conviction just to go down that side and they did a great job.”
Playing in his last match on Burnham Field, Defregger acted as a centerpiece in the Big Green’s domination down the right flank, facilitating many of his team’s offensive pushes, through both connections with teammates and dangerous crosses across the face of the goal.
Despite jumping out to an early one-goal lead, the Big Green prolonged its offensive pressure, consisting of flank area combinations, crosses into the box and corner kicks.
“I think we gave them a couple of chances from not being quite tight enough in our defensive half, but I thought the way we handled [the early lead] was much better than [in other games],” Riley said. “It’s good to see that kind of growth through the season.”
Stefan Cleveland ’16 played an indispensable role in preserving his team’s lead.
The goalkeeper made his first key save on the 36th minute when a Big Green defender mistakenly cleared the ball to Brown senior forward Ben Maurey in the middle of the box. As the opposing player fired with an unhindered look on frame, Cleveland leaped right, barely getting a hand on the ball.
No less than a minute later, the junior goalkeeper had to lunge to his left to stave off another dangerous strike.
“I was just doing my job, trying to make the saves and back up the defense,” Cleveland said. “I was able to see the ball pretty well, didn’t have any trouble reading it. It’s cold out here. It’s easy to make a mental error, sometimes they slip through, but I was called upon and fortunately was able to make the saves.”
As Cleveland protected the tenuous one-goal advantage and the game entered the second half of play, the Bears began to draw more level in terms of offensive opportunities. But, the Dartmouth defense — anchored by Cleveland — remained resolute.
Dartmouth added critical insurance to pad its lead during the 67th minute. A cross by Defregger created a scrum in front of the cage. After Nick Rooney ’15 got a head on the ball, it fell to Adelabu’s feet. With a clear opening on frame, the senior added another tally, placing the shot right inside the far right post.
“One of the things I’ve done all season is just following my shots,” he said. “It happened against Yale, and I did it against Central Connecticut as well. Tonight I just did the same thing, relaxed and took a good shot.”
An 80th-minute goal put the game beyond a doubt. A long pass found Adelabu around the edge of the box. The striker left the ball for Tommy Johnson ’15 left of the frame, who fired a shot that sneaked past Brown’s senior goalkeeper Mitch Kupstas.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better game,” Cleveland said. “We got an early goal, just like we wanted. We were able to sit on the ball, possess it, move it pretty well. Then when we got the second and third goals, we saw the end was near and then we just waited it out until we could celebrate now.”
Adelabu noted that although he and his team will relish this victory and share of the Ivy League crown, they are still hungry for more.
The 48-team NCAA Tournament kicks off on Thursday. The top 16 teams in the country receive byes, while the other 32 compete to reach the second round. Though the Big Green is unlikely to receive a bye, they do have a chance to host an opening round tournament game. The Big Green has not hosted an NCAA Tournament game since 2008. The matchups and locations will be revealed at 1 p.m. Monday on NCAA.com.