Men's soccer scores at-large bid to NCAA tournament

by Manisha Apte | 11/16/09 11:00pm

by Akikazu Onda and Akikazu Onda / The Dartmouth

The Big Green men's soccer team received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament Monday night, following a 3-0 loss to Brown on Sunday that ended the team's chances to gain automatic bid to the tournament.

"I wouldn't say we were expecting it, but it wasn't a surprise, and it's not something we don't deserve," co-captain Dan Keat '10 said of the at-large bid. "We are very excited, because anytime you get to extend a season for guys who put in four years of hard work, it's great."

The Big Green will play its first-round match against Boston College (12-8-0, 5-3-0 ACC) on Thursday. The team also squared off against the Eagles in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament.

In that contest, Dartmouth edged out the Eagles 4-2 on penalty kicks to advance to the round of 16, before falling to No. 1 Wake Forest University 7-0.

"I think we have to start the game with a lot of confidence, and defend the way we know we can," Keat said. "If we go into the game with the right attitude and right intensity, it will be pretty hard not to win a game like this."

On Sunday, however, two first-half goals and a second-period header from Brown (10-2-5, 5-2-0 Ivy) left Dartmouth (10-6-1, 4-3-0 Ivy) with its highest-deficit loss of the season. With the loss, the team dropped to fourth place in the Ivies.

The physical matchup ended with a total of 27 fouls and three yellow cards. Andrew Olsen '11 received a red card in the match.

Brown first broke ahead in the 16th minute, when Thomas McNamara fired a shot into the low right corner after receiving a cross from Nick Elenz-Martin.

The Bears struck again in the 28th minute, when Taylor Gorman managed to escape the Dartmouth defense to connect with another cross.

The Big Green got off to a rocky start, but manage to post six shots in the first half, compared to Brown's eight. The Big Green rebounded to outshoot the Bears 5-4 in the second half.

"Over the 90 minutes I thought our guys played really hard, but the difficult thing was that we didn't start the game well, and Brown punished us for that," head coach Jeff Cook said. "We were two down in the first half, and unfortunately that explained the game overall." The Big Green's effort to equalize the first-half deficit was impeded when Olsen was ejected in the 70th minute after a tussle with a Brown player.

The Bears found its last goal just four minutes after Olsen's red card, capitalizing on its extra man as Austin Mandel headed in an insurance goal.

"From what I could see I don't think it warranted a red card by any stretch there was no violent conduct, just a little pushing after the ball had gone away," Cook said. "I think the referee got caught up with the moment in the game, and [the call] was very disappointing."

Winger Austin Bowers '11 and Brown players Jay Hayward and Jon Okafor were all handed yellow cards later in the game in a span of eight minutes. Throughout Sunday's game, the Big Green faced a persistent and effective Brown defense. Team-leading goal-scorer Lucky Mkosana '12, who scored eight goals this season, did not take a single shot on Sunday.

"Brown did well on defending rather deeply, and they didn't give us a lot of space behind to attack into," Cook said. "They countered more themselves, and it was an effective tactic and more of a problem for us, because we had possession but weren't able to penetrate."

For the first time since his ankle injury against Yale on Oct. 1, co-captain Craig Henderson '09 came into the game in the first half and played for 73 minutes, taking three shots.

Leading up to Sunday's game, the top four teams in the Ivy League Dartmouth, Brown, Harvard and Princeton all had a chance to tie for first place in the league. Harvard's 1-0 victory over the University of Pennsylvania, however, was enough to leave the Crimson alone at the top.

"I feel that the Ivy League, in men's soccer, is one of the strongest conferences in the country," Cook said. "It was very close down to the very end."

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