Defense buckles down for Big Green to grab Ivy title
After 90 minutes of nervous play and nail-biting action, Dartmouth's men's soccer team clinched sole possession of the Ivy League title with a 2-1 win over Brown at Chase field on Sunday. The victory also secured an automatic NCAA tournament bid for the Big Green, its first since the 2000 campaign.
Senior Day proved to be an exciting for the Class of 2005, who won its second Ivy League championship after sharing the 2002 trophy with Penn. Patrick White '05, Fred Ochieng '05, J.P. Barbosa '04, Sam Porter '05, Justin Bain '05 and co-captains Scott Darci '05 and Oliver Harker-Smith '05 appeared to be the happiest people on the field after the game, knowing that they would end their soccer careers at Dartmouth by conquering the Ancient Eight.
Dartmouth got off to a great start and the strikers converted the first opportunity they had. After a throw-in, Nick Christman '08 took a shot from just outside the penalty area, but his effort was deflected by a defender. The ball fell back to Christman, who nicked it forward to Darci. The speedy forward reached the ball before onrushing Brown goalkeeper Chris Gomez and played it to Mark Limpert '07 at the edge of the six-yard box. Limpert, who was named Ivy League Player of the Week for the last two weeks, had no problems finding the empty net from close range, scoring his third goal in the last three games.
Even though Dartmouth has averaged less than a goal per game throughout the season, it turned out to be a productive day for the Big Green scorers, who converted again in the 21st minute. Darnell Nance '06 received the ball at the edge of the box and tried a nice lob over Gomez. Brown's goalkeeper, however, was equal to it and made a fantastic save. However, the ball caromed straight to the feet of Michael Ordonez '08, who tallied from close range for a 2-0 lead. The freshman midfielder has been enjoying his good form lately, managing five points in his last three games. He also scored the only goal in the 3-1 defeat at Boston College and assisted Limpert for his winner against Cornell.
In the next 15 minutes, the game was marked by nervous play, with both teams committing many fouls and nearly engaging in a fight. Even though Dartmouth players dominated most of the first half, having nine corner kicks to Brown's three, they allowed the Bears to score a lucky goal and come back into the game.
Brown's Brazilian Marcos Romaneiro took a corner on the left of the Big Green goal and put it straight on Ben Brackett's head. Dartmouth keeper Rowan Anders '07 was equal to the effort, but Brackett took control of the rebound and hit it with his right foot into the net from close range.
"We got off to a fantastic start," said head coach Jeff Cook, "but Brown is a good team and I knew that they would respond. Actually we thought there was a foul on Rowan when they [Brown] scored their goal. After they got one back, we were a little unsettled, but we held on and did what we had to do," he added.
After conceding the goal, the Big Green fell back into their half and the Bears almost pulled level before the end of the first half. A good cross from the right in the 42nd minute by Brown's Brian Joyce was headed down by co-captain Jeff Larentowicz, but a Dartmouth defender managed to clear the ball off the line.
The second half was full of drama for Dartmouth and the crowd of about 500 loyal supporters in attendance. Seven minutes after the restart Limpert had a chance to restore the two-goal lead and score his second of the game. The ball was played back to Brown's goalkeeper Gomez by a defender. The senior star and co-captain of the Bears took too much time to clear the ball and Limpert managed to steal it from him just inside the penalty area. The sophomore striker attempted a shot with almost no angle at the goal, and the ball hit the post and bounced clear. From then on, Brown took almost full control of the game. Perhaps the most telling statistic was the corner kick count, which was 10-1 in favor of Brown in the second half. However, the Big Green defense managed to keep its cool and keep the 2-1 scoreline.
Dartmouth's first round opponent in the NCAA tournament will be announced on Monday afternoon, when the entire field will be broadcast on ESPN News at 4:30 p.m.