Men’s soccer beats Columbia to stay unbeaten in Ivy League

by Ray Lu | 10/25/15 7:30pm

The men’s soccer team (8-3-1, 4-0 Ivy) scored two goals in the first half to top Columbia University (8-4-1, 2-2 Ivy) this past Saturday at 2-1. Eduvie Ikoba ’19 and Justin Donawa ’19 notched tallies in the first half, and the defense, led by captain and goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland ’16, held off Columbia’s offense for the remainder of the game.

The victory over the Big Red pushes Dartmouth’s current winning streak to six games and continues their undefeated conference play. With Harvard University losing to Princeton University this past weekend, the Big Green now sits on top of the Ivy League leaderboard in sole possession of first place.

“It’s nice to know that we’ve got the most momentum in the Ivy League, but at the same time there are still three [Ivy League] games left, which is almost half a season,” Cleveland said. “A lot of things can change, so we’ve got to stay on top of our game.”

Ikoba, who leads the team in shots with 22 and points with nine, finished a corner from Matt Greer ’18 at a narrow angle from the left of the goal. His touch slotted into the bottom right corner of the net in the 27th minute. Ikoba and Matt Danilack ’18 lead the Big Green in scoring with three goals each.

“It was a corner kick, and in practice we work on set pieces, so we all knew where we were going to make our runs, and I was lucky enough to make my run exactly when the ball came,” Ikoba said. “I saw it coming, and I knew if I could just flick it, I could be able to redirect it into the net. Luckily it was able to get in there.”

Donawa earned the first goal of his collegiate career in spectacular fashion, firing a rocket from 40 yards out that beat Columbia senior goalkeeper Kyle Jackson. On a breakaway late in the first half, Donawa saw an opportunity and put the ball squarely in the bottom back right corner of the goal beyond Jackson’s outstretched hands. With Donawa’s goal, 11 Dartmouth players have found the back of the net this season.

The Lions had a couple of early opportunities. Shortly before Ikoba’s goal, Columbia rattled the ball inside Dartmouth’s penalty box. Cleveland bobbled the ball but was able to cleanly sweep away any danger. In the 36th minute, sophomore Alex Bangerl took a free kick that soared just above the crossbar.

While Dartmouth was clearly in control at halftime, the Lions refused to back down in the second half. The Big Green outshot the Lions 5-to-1 in the first period, but in the second half Columbia fired off 13 shots to Dartmouth’s three and had the only two corner kicks after halftime.

“We knew that it was their last opportunity at an Ivy League title, so they were going to come out with everything they got,” Cleveland said. “Especially going into the half with a 2-0 lead, we knew we had to be strong, because they were going to throw everything they had at us.”

One of those shots was able to beat Cleveland, who had secured back-to-back shutouts before this game. Junior Rhys Williams took a shot that was blocked by Wyatt Omsberg ’18. The rebound fell back to Williams, but Cleveland saved the second effort. The third bounce fell to sophomore Andrew Tinari, who found Frederick Elliot to his left. Elliot shot across the face of the goal and scored in the far corner.

Prior to this goal, Cleveland had manned the net for 360 scoreless minutes, dating back to the 2-1 loss to Seattle University on Sep. 20. Since that game, Dartmouth has not lost and conceded only one goal in a 2-1 victory against the University of Vermont on Oct. 6 with James Hickok ’17 in goal.

Cleveland was impenetrable for the rest of the game against the Lions. He soared high to snag a Columbia free kick in the 53rd minute and recorded all four of his saves in the second half.

The two teams combined for 31 fouls and six yellow cards in this game. Many of Columbia’s scoring opportunities came on free kicks just outside of the box. Senior Antonio Matarazzo tested Cleveland with a volley off a set piece in the 65th minute, but the goalkeeper made the diving save.

The Lions entered Saturday’s matchup on a two-game win streak, topping Sacred Heart University and Princeton, the latter of which finished tied with Dartmouth for the Ivy League title last season.

Dartmouth has conceded just one goal in Ivy League play and eight for the season, with five of those coming in a two-game road trip to Seattle against a ranked University of Washington team and a Seattle University squad that later beat the Huskies and broke into the top 25 themselves.

In the last NSCAA coaches’ rankings, updated on Oct. 20, Dartmouth was the only Ivy League team to receive votes. The team’s 13 points put them just 26 shy of breaking into the top 25. This week’s result against an up-and-coming Columbia team should help those numbers.

On Tuesday, Dartmouth travels to Durham, New Hampshire, to take on the University of New Hampshire. On Halloween Saturday, the Big Green will face off against second-place Harvard in a highly anticipated matchup.

Last season, Dartmouth tied against Harvard 1-1 after two overtime periods. Stefan Defregger ’15 scored in the fifth minute.

Harvard found an equalizer, but both goalkeepers, including Cleveland, held their ground the rest of the game. The Crimson finished just half a game back of Dartmouth and Princeton last season.