Men's soccer falls to Providence
As fall term concluded, the Dartmouth men’s soccer team wrapped up its most successful campaign in four years. Hosting a National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament game for the first time since 2008, the Big Green (12-5-2, 5-1-1 Ivy) won a thrilling opening round match against Fordham University 2-1 before falling to Providence College 0-3 on the road.
This was the Big Green’s first participation in the postseason tournament for the first time since meeting Providence in 2011.
In the first round, Dartmouth encountered Fordham, a force they had faced at Burnham Field nearly two months before. The regular season meeting played out very similarly to the postseason one, both fiercely contested and won by Dartmouth with second half goals. Entering the postseason, the Rams (8-9-4) were coming off a blazing win streak in the Atlantic-10 Tournament to punch their ticket to the NCAA tourney
For second-year head coach Chad Riley, hosting a tournament game was itself a reward.
“It was a great honor, and I think it was something the team this year really deserved,” Riley said. “I think it shows what a special place Dartmouth is when you can get so many people out on a cold night for an NCAA game, right as you’re going into finals.”
In the early stages of the match on Thursday night, Dartmouth attained the majority of the offensive chances. Despite the pressure, Fordham’s defensive scheme of piling back in its own half made the first 45 minutes primarily lackluster and uneventful.
As the match progressed into the final half of play, however, Dartmouth managed to seize the first lead of the game on the 61st minute. After controlling a pass from the air, Alex Adelabu ’15 flicked the ball back up and towards the net. Matt Danilack ’18 — who has figured hugely in his team’s success this year — got a head on the ball first and knocked it to Robin Alnas ’15, who was positioned perfectly to rip the ball into the goal.
Though the Big Green maintained offensive pressure even after grabbing an advantage, Fordham shocked their hosts when a 79th minute header to off a free kick leveled the score between the two. Yet only nine minutes later, Dartmouth ensured that an overtime period would not be needed. With his back to the frame, Adelabu — once again assuming the role of team hero — took a sharp, decisive turn to his left and blasted home the game-winner in the top right corner of the goal off another assist from Danilack.
That last goal was not just another impressive play for Adelabu, and he noted the additional significance of the moment with respect to his Dartmouth career.
“I scored my first college goal on that goal post,” he said. “And to score my last college goal on that same goal, it was just a great ending to my playing on Burnham Field.”
While still riding the high of this latest victory, the following road test against the Providence College Friars (16-5-2), the squad ranked 11th in the NCAA tournament bracket, vanquished any hopes of a longer postseason run.
Playing in the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010, the Big Green fell to the hosts 0-3, with all three goals occurring in a span of 31 minutes in the second half.
The Friars kicked off the game aggressively. The Big Green was forced to quickly acclimate itself to the game’s flow. Dartmouth did not appear to be rattled, though, and sustained a physical yet scoreless first half.
A mere three minutes into the second half, the Friars’ excellent ball movement around the Dartmouth goal proved effective in ending the stalemate, with an opening score in the 48th minute.
Coach Riley was pleased with his team’s effort in the first 45 minutes, but noted the damaging setback of falling behind on the road.
“I felt we did really well against them in the first half,” Riley said. “We had some good chances, we just couldn’t find the back of the net...Once you’re playing away from home and chasing a game against very good team like Providence, that’s when it becomes difficult.”
Dartmouth ultimately could not penetrate Providence’s defense, and the Friars were able to strike again. In the 56th minute, the Friars increased their lead to 2-0. Providence put on the final touch in the 79th minute giving the Friars a 0-3.
When coach Riley reflects on the team’s year, he views it as a success, as they clinched the Ivy League Championship in only his second season as coach. He also emphasizes his team’s commitment and focus.
“I think you’re always successful when your last game means something, and when you’re playing in the NCAA tournament it certainly means something,” Riley said. “We’re certainly proud, and in some ways it whets our appetite to see how we take our team to another level now.”
After his final season, key defender and midfielder Gabe Hoffman-Johnson ’14 feels that the Big Green soccer program has a bright future ahead of it, saying the coaching staff and especially coach Riley have done a tremendous job with the team.
“I think the sky’s the limit, to be honest,” Hoffman-Johnson said. “I can see them going farther in the tournament than we even did. [It’s] definitely an exciting time for Dartmouth soccer.”