Men's soccer picks up double overtime win over UMass Amherst

by Jake Philhower | 9/24/18 2:05am

The Dartmouth men’s soccer team has had a tremulous start to the year, posting a 1-4-2 record. The season started with a tough road trip to Indiana University, where the Big Green played Indiana and the University of Notre Dame to kick off the season. These two games resulted in tough losses for Dartmouth, as they were shut out 3-0 and 2-0, respectively. However, this will likely not be indicative of the season the Big Green are going to have this year, given that the Hoosiers and Fighting Irish are currently ranked No. 2 and No. 8 in the country respectively.

The Big Green had trouble producing offensively early in the season, but in their game against Boston University on Sept. 11, Tiger Graham ’21 found the back of the net twice for the team’s first goals of the season. However, Boston University was able to score two goals of their own to tie the game with a final score of 2-2.

This past week, the Big Green had two important matches against Hofstra University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Following the team’s early season struggles, the Big Green sought to make strides offensively and defensively in order to prepare for the upcoming Ivy League schedule. On Tuesday, the team made the trip to Long Island to face Hofstra, a team that had a 2-3-2 record, including a 3-0 win over Harvard University. In this game, Dartmouth struggled again to capitalize on very important opportunities. The Big Green out-shot the Hofstra Pride 15-6 and seemed dominant throughout the game. However, the Big Green was unable to capitalize on any of their four shots on goal, whereas the Pride scored the winning goal in the second half with one of their only two shots on goal in the game.

This past weekend, the Big Green faced UMass Amherst on the road, looking to break the home team’s two-game winning streak. The Big Green had familiar issues through the early stages of the showdown as they out-shot UMass Amherst 9-1 in the first half but didn’t have a goal to show for it. The second half was far more even, but neither team was able to pull ahead, resulting in another golden goal overtime finish for the Big Green. Although the score was tied at 0-0, Dartmouth’s players felt confident leaving regulation, as they felt they had played very well.

“We were the better team throughout regulation and both overtime periods,” Aaron Schwartz ’21said. “But small things like referee decisions weren’t going our way.”

The Big Green showed their confidence on the field in the overtime period, taking two shots in the first 10 minutes of the overtime period that nearly went in. Johnny Nierenberg ’18 had a shot on goal with 40 seconds left in the first overtime that was saved by UMass Amherst goalie Marvyn Dorchin. While the shot officially counted as a save for the opposing goalie, the Big Green felt that they had a goal taken away as Nierenberg’s strike appeared to cross the goal line.

Time was winding down for the Big Green to make a game changing play as they headed into the second overtime. Dartmouth was creating solid offensive pressure, but was unable to put the ball in the back of the net. While the team was focused on the offense, it almost suffered a defensive lapse in the 105th minute. Henry Stusnick ’20 was able to make a key save, protecting Dartmouth’s hopes to win the match. This may have been one of the biggest moments of the game, but it is also largely representative of how the Big Green defense has kept Dartmouth in games as of late.

“Our defense as a whole has done an incredible job of keeping us in games with no margin for error,” Schwartz said.

Following Stusnick’s heroics, the Big Green were on the counter attack, trying to score the game-winning goal as the remaining time ticked away. Dartmouth needed a last-minute surge from some of their veteran players if they wanted to come out on top in this gritty matchup.

Finally, with less than four minutes left in the game, Kota Sakurai ’21 played the ball forward to veteran midfielder Justin Donawa ’19, who beat Dorchin and scored the winning goal for the Big Green.

“I think we did well to compose ourselves and have a belief that we were going to win that game,” Donawa said. “And it showed, because as OT went on, we created more and more attack, and finally we broke the deadlock with about three minutes to go.”

Donawa was able to deliver Dartmouth’s first win of the year with his last-minute goal, but he was quick to point out in a post-game interview that he was not alone in securing this victory for the team.

“It obviously felt amazing to deliver that goal in the dying moments of such a gritty game,” Donawa said. “However, I am even happier that we were able to get our first win of the season. All 33 members of the team, including the coaching staff, were instrumental in getting that result.”

This goal was bigger than just a win for Dartmouth. It marked the first win for a team that was going through an uncharacteristically rough slump. The team is hoping to build upon the energy and excitement heading into their last week of games before the start of their Ivy League schedule.

The stat lines thus far seem to suggest that Dartmouth is simply not capitalizing upon opportunities they are given. The Big Green must start scoring in a much more regular fashion if they hope to meet the expectations that come with winning the last four Ivy League Championships.

“Just by looking at the stats, you can see that we’ve struggled with goal scoring throughout the first seven games,” said Schwartz. “But this has a lot to do with injuries to key attacking players. Almost all of them have come back or are on track to return in the next week, so I fully believe that we’ll begin to find our scoring form again soon.”

Dartmouth will look to improve their play in the coming weeks, as the Ivy League is set to be a tight race once again. As many as two losses, or even one loss, in Ivy play is enough to disqualify a team for the championship, something that has been a main goal for the Big Green since day one this season. However, as Dartmouth prepares for the heart of their schedule, the team’s preparation will also likely be ramped up quickly.

“The week leading up to Ivies is always a great one,” goalie Chris Palacios ’21 said. “Our level of intensity in training will have to increase.”

The Big Green have the potential to be a top contender for the Ivy League tittle yet again this year, but they need to continue focusing on training, healing and improving upon offensive efficiency. If the team is able to do all of these things, they believe they can reach and surpass their goals.

“As we go into Ivy League play next weekend, I think we just need to continue to defend and attack as a unit, create more chances and take advantage of the chances we get,” Donawa said. “When we do those three things, we are extremely hard to beat.”

The Big Green are in action next in Hanover on Tuesday against the University of Albany. The team’s Ivy League season kicks off on Saturday as it travels to Princeton, New Jersey to face the Tigers.