Nov. 22, 2009

Courtesy of Williams

YORK, PA -- For the second straight game, regulation and a pair of overtime periods was simply not enough soccer to determine who deserved the right to advance to the coveted Final Four round of the NCAA tournament. However, it was the Williams College men's soccer team that once again responded in the final hour earning a 4-1 penalty kick victory over Christopher Newport University Sunday.

The victory now places the 16-2-3 Ephs within one game of the national championship. Williams will face the winner of tonight's Messiah vs. Rochester game in the National Semifinals on December 4th in San Antonio.

Williams previously needed to get through on penalty kicks in yesterday's victory over York College, while CNU had survived two straight penalty kick shootouts to make it to the sectional final. Three in a row proved to be just too much as the Captains magic ran out, ending their season at 18-2-4 and marking the second straight year they have advanced to the Elite 8.

The Ephs controlled play for much of the game, as they dominated possession and dictated the tempo en route to amassing a 25 to 5 shot advantage for the game.

However, despite the run of play it was the Ephs who found themselves behind for a vast portion of the game.

CNU got on the board just 19 minutes into the game when Brian Lybert's cross to the back post found the head of teammate Sean Moriarty who redirected past Eph net minder Andrew Graham (4 saves) and into the inside wall of the net for the 1-0 lead.

The Ephs finally broke through the defense in the 63rd period. After a long service into the left corner, Matt Ratajczak send a cross into the box where Will Whiston was waiting to head it onto the back post and tie it up 1-1.

Once they scored their goal I thought they got a little defensive and more conservative, dropping more people back behind the ball so we had to change tactics,” said Russo. “We had to go side to side and diagonally to get balls in and through. Will Whiston’s goal was header that came off a long ball played across from the left side by Matt Ratajczak.”

“Their keeper was very good today and kept them in the game,” noted Russo.

The Ephs finally broke through the defense in the 63rd period. After a long service into the left corner, Matt Ratajczak send a cross into the box where Will Whiston was waiting to head it onto the back post and tie it up 1-1.

The score forced CNU into its third straight PK shootout, having won games against Lynchburg and Stevens in the last eight days, and another in the USA South championship against N.C. Wesleyan.

Cliff Kipper made CNU's first attempt, but the next two failed and Williams' shots were true as the Ephs won, 4-1.

Williams College men’s soccer head coach Mike Russo is in his 31st year at the helm of the Ephs and he has seen a lot of PK shootouts in his time and he has never liked the PK shootout settling a score in a soccer match and nothing changed today. “Terrible” is the word Russo uses to describe this method of determining a result.

“It’s not a good way to determine the outcome of a game, but today we were very fortunate to get the result as this was a very one-sided game as the shots show [25-5 in Williams’ favor] and had we not advanced it would have made for a very, very long bus ride home,” said Russo.

“Their second guy missed over the bar and then Than [Finan] saved their third attempt and when Colin [Ainsworth] buried his we were through to the next round,” said Russo. The Ephs after missing their first PK attempt yesterday have converted 11 in a row.

“We’re thrilled to be moving on, but we know we will have our work cut out for us as Messiah is a great team and Rochester is solid as well,” stated Russo.

This will mark the fourth time Russo has guided his Eph booters to a Final Four appearance. In the fall of 1993, the first season NESCAC permitted team competition in NCAA Championship events, the Ephs hosted the Final Four on Cole Field and fell to UC San Diego in the title contest. In 1995 Williams defeated Methodist College 2-1 on Cole Field to win the title and in 1998 the Ephs tied for third.

In 15 NCAA appearances Williams has an overall record of 28-11-8 (.681), all under Mike Russo.