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The Dartmouth
February 29, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Men’s soccer team wins fourth Ivy title, women win first Ivy game

Dartmouth soccer had its best weekend of the season as both the men and women defeated Cornell University at home. The men’s team clinched a share of the Ivy League title with a 1-0 win, while the women overcame frustrating results earlier in the season with a 1-0 win to get their first conference win to close out the season.

Both teams had their final home games and celebrated their seniors during Senior Day. The seniors on the men’s team, including tri-captains Matt Danilack ’18, Tyler Dowse ’18 and Wyatt Omsberg ’18, as well as Yima Asom ’18, have had a decorated four years playing for the Big Green, helping the team to an Ivy League crown all four years. This senior class is the only class in Dartmouth history to win four Ivy League titles.

“They’ve contributed a lot during their time at Dartmouth,” Eduvie Ikoba ’19 said of the senior class. “I am happy to have shared a lot of my time with them, and there are sentimental feelings all around. They’re leaders, and I’m grateful to have shared time with them.”

The women celebrated the end of the season by honoring the team’s seniors, Zainab Bakrin ’18, Brittany Champagne ’18 and Lindsay Knutson ’18, as well as captains Gia Parker ’18 and Bianca Ribi ’18.

“It’s a hard time on me as a coach,” women’s soccer head coach Ron Rainey said. “These players have put in four years of hard work. It’s tough to lose them, because they really pushed the rest of this team to improve, but I’m excited to see what they do next with their lives.”

The men recognized Saturday’s game as a crucial point in their season with the Ivy League title on the line. The team returned to its early season success by hanging onto a clean sheet and winning on Ikoba’s header. With his eighth goal, Ikoba extended his team lead in goals to three.

“We’ve watched a lot of Cornell, and we knew they would challenge us,” men’s head coach Chad Riley said. “It was like a cup final. We had the automatic bid on the line, and we were a bit nervy but we got a good start to the game with some early chances. Cornell pushed back but never threatened too much. In the second half, we knew we had 45 minutes to get a result, and we kept pushing until we got the goal we needed.”

Ikoba’s goal came on a header off a pass from Dawson McCartney ’21 in the 74th minute.

“We had a counterattack opportunity that started with Justin [Donawa ’19] coming down the side, who did well to make space,” Ikoba said. “I made a run to the near post initially, but it went to [Danilack] instead. He passed it back out, and that movement created some space that led to me getting a free header. I was lucky to get such a good chance and glad I scored.”

The win against Cornell was a great demonstration of the men’s consistency, both over the course of this season and over the last few seasons. The team seldom had a poor performance, especially in its five Ivy League wins this season. In addition, the team’s conference win for the fourth consecutive year shows the ability to consistently reach an impressive level of play.

“We’ve done so well not based on individual strengths, but as a group we’re really united,” Ikoba said. “It helps a lot when you have not just the starting 11 but four, five or more guys off the bench that each have something to contribute. Even those who don’t play work hard in practice and push each other. It doesn’t seem to be that important but adding it all up, it can be the difference in games against other good teams. It goes a long way.”

The women had a good amount of control in their game against Cornell and took 16 shots, 10 more shots than the opposition but knew that this was no guarantee of success. Despite strong play in some other Ivy League games, the women had yet to win a game in conference play, suffering tight losses at the end of games.

“We’ve had some tough ones in overtime, but everybody on the team has just stayed patient and kept trying to do what we do well,” Rainey said. “You can have a lot of chances, a lot of pressure and still not score.”

This was not the case against Cornell. The breakthrough came from Erin Kawakami ’21 on an assist from Ribi in the 22nd minute.

“It was a great play by Ribi,” Rainey said. “It’s something we’ve been working on, making runs forward when somebody doesn’t have pressure on them. We get behind the defense, and this time it worked as it was supposed to.”

Ribi found Kawakami from her advanced position, and Kawakami finished impressively.

“I’m proud of the goal,” Rainey said. “It was a real highlight goal, a great finish by Kawakami.”

Although the result seems to stand out from the rest of the season, the flow of the game was not unlike other games this year.

“I think [the win] had been coming for a while,” Rainey said. “Everything evens out over time, and that’s what happened when we were losing games where we played well. We just had to be resilient, and eventually we got the win in a close game. Hopefully it will continue to next season, and we can win a few more games like this.”

After going ahead, it took a good defensive showing for Dartmouth to get the shutout and hang on to the win after a second goal proved elusive.

“Defensively, we really tried to snuff out counterattacks,” Rainey said. “We either tried to cut it off immediately or be patient and slow down the attack while we got numbers back. With a one goal lead, we always want to get a second goal, but we couldn’t get it, so we made sure our defense was strong at the end of the game. They needed something special for a tying goal and couldn’t find it.”

The men have exciting play coming up this week against Brown University and then in the NCAA tournament. A win against Brown could place them into the top-16 teams, which grants them home-field advantage and first-round byes.

“Next week is a really big game,” Ikoba said. “We want a first-round bye and home field advantage in the tournament, and we need to get a win and make sure we have a place in the top 16. We have finals week to worry about, so everybody is motivated to play well and get a first round bye.”

The team recognizes that despite the win, it isn’t time to celebrate.

“The entire team is excited,” Riley said. “We’re really proud of the focus of the entire group to make it this far, not just the players on the field. At this time of year, it’s important to focus and these guys live to compete. The NCAA tournament is going to be on the back of people’s minds; the team knows we still have a lot to play for.”