Men's soccer ties Brown, wins share of Ivy League title

by Nedko Kyuchukov | 11/14/05 6:00am

As Dartmouth's men's soccer traveled to Providence, R.I. to face Brown on Saturday, it was defending its Ivy League Championship trophy and striving to win the title for the third time in four years.

The Bears, however, were fighting to protect their image of the most successful team in the last decade, winning seven of the last 11 championships. It was to be an end-of-the-season showdown that was expected by Ivy League fans since mid-season.

The Dartmouth players knew it was a "winner take all" situation. Both teams were top of the league with 15 points and a win would guarantee the outright title. A potential draw however could open the door for third-placed Yale to clinch a share of the trophy as well. This unlikely series of events was exactly the scenario that played out on Saturday afternoon. The Big Green managed to come from behind twice to earn a 2-2 draw against the Bears, while Yale overcame Princeton 1-0 to complete the three-way tie for the Ivy title. It is the first time in the 50-year history of Ivy League men's soccer that three teams share the title.

Brown took an early lead in the title showdown as junior Ian Premo scored in the 16th minute. Premo met a cross by senior Keith Caldwell at the far corner of the box and blasted it first-time into the top corner of the far side of the net.

Dartmouth, however, managed to respond less than eight minutes later. Darnell Nance '06 took advantage of a terrible mistake by Brown keeper David Semenza, shielding the ball, before volleying it over the keeper's head into the net. This was Nance's sixth goal of the season, bringing his total to 13 points this year. The rest of the half proved to be exciting, with both teams looking for the net. Each team ended the half with six shots, with both keepers posting two saves.

The Bears managed to take the lead once again just under 10 minutes into the second half. Premo was on the delivering side this time, as he received the ball from a corner kick and sent it into the box from about 20 yards out. Junior Jamier Granger was left unmarked at the far post and easily headed the ball past Big Green keeper Rowan Anders '07. Brown's two goals equaled the number of goals that Dartmouth had conceded in the team's previous six League games this season.

However, the Bears made the mistake of forgetting Dartmouth's many strong finishes throughout the season. With 5:45 of play left in the game, the Big Green managed to notch the equalizing goal. Mark Limpert '07 advanced into the penalty area from the left and sent in a venomous cross. The ball found the sprinting Craig Henderson '09, who was able to kick it into the net, past the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Semenza. Regular time ended in a 2-2 draw that meant the game was going into overtime. The two 10-minute periods were intense battles as both teams had some good scoring chances. However, no more goals were to be scored in the game, as Dartmouth and Brown each secured a share of the title.

"It was a great college soccer game and we're thrilled to come away as Ivy League champs. Our players' response was first class -- to come from behind twice and get the tie," said Dartmouth head coach Jeff Cook. "Brown had a tremendous start to the second half and had a lot of momentum. Our guys really showed a lot of courage to come back the way we did. We threw a lot of numbers forward with 20 minutes to go, knowing that the tying goal was really the winning goal for us," added Cook.

The Big Green ends the season with a 10-2-5 overall record, 5-1-1 in Ivy League play. Dartmouth also earns the automatic NCAA berth ahead of Yale (10-3-4, Ivy 5-1-1) and Brown (10-4-2, Ivy 5-1-1) courtesy of its better head-to-head record. The Big Green is 1-0-1 against its opponents, having defeated Yale 1-0 in New Haven. The Bulldogs are 1-1-0 as they won against Brown (0-1-1) last weekend.

Under Cook, the Big Green has won the Ivy League in three of the last four years. It's also the first time in Dartmouth history that the team managed to defend its title, winning the trophy in consecutive years. Receiving the automatic NCAA bid means that the Big Green will make its second consecutive appearance in the tournament, its ninth overall.

Last year, the team went out in the first round of the tournament after losing 4-3 on penalty kicks to Boston University. After a 2-2 draw in regular time, Amar Takhar '06 missed the decisive penalty. "We achieved a lot this season," said Cook after the game a year ago. "With a young team, we grew and came together. We lose some great seniors, but the future is bright." The team will be trying to improve on its performance from last year, proving that the players have matured over the course of last season.

Dartmouth will now wait to see its first round NCAA tournament opponent. The selections will be announced live on ESPNEWS today between 4 and 4:30 p.m. At the same time, Brown and Yale will be eagerly anticipating the drawing to learn if they have secured at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

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