Soccer opens NCAA Tournament with win over Monmouth
"I'm so happy for the players," head coach Jeff Cook said. "It's a huge win for us and I think the result was deserved. The quality of our play was outstanding."
The Monmouth victory marked the first regulation NCAA tournament win in Cook's 10-year tenure in Hanover, even though the team has qualified for the big dance six times in the past decade. Just as Cook was happy for his players, his players were happy that they could end the streak, according to goalkeeper Lyman Missimer '11.
"It was nice to get that monkey off our back," Missimer said.
Four different players scored goals for the Big Green, while co-captain Dan Keat '10 notched three assists. Missimer recorded his third consecutive shutout, a key factor in the five-game winning streak.
"It feels good personally [to get the shutout], but our defensive unit has been playing out of their minds," Missimer said.
Co-captain Andrew Olsen '11 put Dartmouth on the board early, as Hawks (14-2-4, 8-0-4 NEC) senior goalkeeper Bryan Meredith could not hold on to Olsen's shot from the edge of the box.
Dartmouth took a 1-0 lead into halftime, and eight minutes after the break Nick Pappas '12 headed in Olsen's corner to double the Big Green's lead. After Missimer made a big save on Hawks senior Ryan Kinne's free kick in the 62nd minute, Lucky Mkosana '12 took a pass from Keat in the 66th minute and slotted home his fifth goal of the season to seal the win for Dartmouth. Aaron Gaide '11 rounded out the scoring with a goal off another Keat cross in the 80th minute.
"The quality to our finishing and our ability to score goals at crucial moments in the game was the key to the win," Cook said.
Just three weeks ago, the post-season prospects for the Big Green seemed grim. The team had just lost its third game in a row to Boston College and stood at just 6-6-1 overall, with a 1-3 record in the Ivy League. A win over Harvard University over Homecoming weekend changed everything from that point forward, Dartmouth has been unbeatable.
"We've got out of the habit of conceding early goals," Cook said. "Three consecutive shutouts gives the team a platform to stay in games longer. For me, the defensive improvement has been very significant."
"This game was nothing new for us, because after the BC game every game was pretty much do or die," Missimer said. "We were used to the pressure."
Missimer added that switching from a traditional 4-4-2 formation to the more attacking 4-3-3 has paid dividends for the Big Green.
Missimer is one of six members of the Class of 2011 that started against Monmouth. The class made history this season by becoming the first class in Dartmouth history to qualify for the NCAA tournament all four years. Defender Bryan Giudicelli '11 is the only player to have played in the every NCAA tournament game during that span.
Dartmouth received good news earlier in the week when five players were named to the All-Ivy Team. Leading the way was Keat, one of just three unanimous selections to the first team. It was Keat's third first-team selection and fourth overall, as he was named to the second team in 2007.
Mkosana also made his third appearance on the first team. Mkosana and Keat are just the third and fourth Dartmouth players in the history of the program to make three appearances on the first team. Mkosana has a chance to be the first to make four All-Ivy first teams next year.
Giudicelli, Olsen and Teo Larsson-Sax '13 were all named honorable mention All-Ivy.
The Big Green will now travel to Indiana to face host University of Notre Dame in a second-round matchup on Sunday night. The winner will take on the winner of the matchup between the University of California, Los Angeles and Sacramento State University.