Nov. 21, 2009

Courtesy of Wesleyan

After playing to a 1-1 deadlock through 110 minutes of play in their NCAA second-round contest, the Cardinals got the decision over Western New England Sun., Nov. 15, 5-4 on penalty kicks, to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III men's soccer tournament. Wesleyan moved on to face the University of Rochester (13-1-3) in a sectional semi-final at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. Sat., Nov. 21 and led 1-0 in the first half, but the Yellowjackets came back to tie the game in the second half and win it, 2-1, with a goal just 37 seconds in the second sudden-victory OT period.

As a result, Wesleyan's deepest run into NCAA play came to a close. The team ended its outstanding campaign with a final record of 12-2-5, went undefeated in NESCAC regular-season play and earned the top seed in the NESCAC tournament.

In the final home game of the season, Wesleyan and WNEC matched each other toe-to-toe throughout the contest as WNEC took the lead in the 36th minute on a header after a corner kick. The lead stood up for less than 14 minutes as Wesleyan struck back early in the second half. Rory O'Neill '13 (#27, top photo) netted his second goal of the campaign, following up a shot by Keisuke Yamashita '10, which the WNEC keeper stopped with both hands from about 10 yards out. But the ball stayed in play and O'Neill got to it first and pushed it into the goal to even the count in the 50th minute. Just a minute earlier, Asante Brooks '10 came within a whisker of tying the contest the WNEC goalie made a tremendous diving stop to his left even with the upright.

Heading into overtime, the Cardinals took to the offensive from the outset and over a five-minute stretch, hit flush on the crossbar twice while also clanging a shot off the right goal post, but neither team scored during the extra 20 minutes of play, sending the teams into penalty kicks to decide which team advances.

Wesleyan got the early edge when Walter Rodriguez '13 converted the opening kick low to the right side of the net. Keeper Adam Purdy '13 (#30, bottom photo), who finished the game with three saves, made a great stop of WNEC's first kick to the right side, pushing the ball into the goal post and away from the net. Each team made good on its next three tries as Brooks came up to take Wesleyan's fifth attempt with a chance to clinch the decision. His attempt was stopped, however. Into sudden-victory kicks, O'Neill went first for Wesleyan and made good high to the left. WNEC then labeled its next drive to the lower right corner, but Purdy guessed right and got two hands on the ball top make the save while fully extended to help Wesleyan advance to the next round.

It was the fifth-ever meeting between the two teams and second time they faced each other this season. Back on Sept. 20, the squads battled to a 0-0 double-overtime tie in Springfield, Mass. Wesleyan has a small edge in the series at 2-1-2.

This was the first time Wesleyan had gone without a loss after two games in an NCAA tournament, having gone 1-1 in its previous trips in 2005 and 2006. When Wesleyan and Rochester hit the field at Messiah for the next round, it was the first-ever meeting of the Cardinals and Yellowjackets in men's soccer.

Yamashita scored Wesleyan's goal vs. Rochester as he followed up the play of Nick Whipple '10 for his team-high fifth goal of the campaign. The lead held for 38 minutes before Rochester netted an unassisted tally in the 54th minute and that's the way regulation ended. Neither team got a shot on goal in the first 10-minute overtime period but Rochester wasted little time in the second, heading in the game winner after a long cross in the first minute. Rochester had a 20-8 edge in total shots but the teams were equal in the shot-on-goal department at three apiece. Purdy finished his amazing rookie year with just one save in the contest as his seasonal save percentage ended at .886 with a 0.50 goals-against average.