Men's soccer knocked out of NCAA tourney in shootout

by Cameron Nutt | 11/26/07 2:22am

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Craig Henderson '09 and the Big Green lost in a heartbreaker to Vermont.
by Jessica Griffen / The Dartmouth

The contest was one of the most intense Big Green athletic events in recent memory, but Dartmouth (11-4-3) fell to Vermont (9-9-3) in soul-crushing fashion, 5-4.

The stands were packed to capacity, but most of the fans were rabid Vermonters. Those who did make it to the game were treated to an incredible display of Big Green athleticism and toughness.

Every goal in the heartbreaking defeat came off penalty kicks. The teams played to a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation before two scoreless overtimes led to a shootout, which Vermont won 4-3.

Things went Dartmouth's way early as Daniel Keat '10 scored 54 seconds into the game on a penalty kick caused by a UVM handball inside the box. A Vermont forward was ejected with a red card midway through the first half, forcing the Catamounts to play a man down for the rest of the game.

Dartmouth kept up the offensive pressure for the rest of regulation, taking 16 shots to Vermont's six, but just could not seem to pull away with an all-important second goal that would have allowed the Big Green to stack its defense.

"We just should have put them away early on," midfielder Mike Ordonez '08 said. "It really came down to us not getting the job done and taking that one man advantage like it should have been handled. It felt like it was our game to lose and not theirs to win."

The Big Green came very close to netting another goal on several corner kicks and breakaways but was thwarted by strong goalkeeping and wide shots. With one minute left in the contest, Vermont pulled its goalkeeper and Dartmouth had an open shot from 20 yards that barely missed to the left. The goal kick led to a Catamount offensive surge culminating in a controversial Dartmouth handball. The resulting Vermont penalty kick with 26 seconds left would tie the game at 1-1.

"Sometimes the natural tendency is to protect what you have with the one-goal lead," head Coach Jeff Cook said. "We have to take responsibility for the chances we had to win the game and not rely on referees' decisions one way or the other."

Dartmouth goalkeeper Sean Milligan '09 was injured making a save shortly before the penalty kick and left the game after regulation. Substitute Justin Schwarz '08 made just the second appearance of his career and held Vermont scoreless through both sudden death overtime periods. Unfortunately, the Big Green still could not net a goal to put away the Catamounts, and the game moved on to a penalty kick shootout.

Dartmouth's first shot was saved by UVM keeper Roger Scully. After the two teams alternated scores, Vermont missed its fourth attempt, keeping the count even at 4-4 with one attempt remaining each. Scully then made a clutch save on Dartmouth's final shot before Vermont sank the last goal to clinch the game.

"Obviously, every game is a little different but you know things like this can happen, especially in a big tournament," Keat said of the shootout. "Some would say that's the beauty of a tournament situation and others might say that it can rob teams. We were on the losing side today and just have to deal with it."

Vermont advances to Wednesday's second-round match-up against UConn, the tournament's third seed. Saturday's loss was Dartmouth's third first-round tournament defeat in three years.

"Dartmouth looks to be a perennial powerhouse," Ordonez said. "We make it our goal to be a strong team where others arriving in Hanover know they are going to have some trouble. I think we've done that. All that our senior year needed was a chance to take a shot at a major program like Connecticut. We definitely could have played better -- we should have finished it off."