AMHERST, Mass. -- Back-to-back years the Ephs have progressed to the third round; back-to-back years that game has been against the Judges on the campus of Amherst; and back-to-back years the Ephs have moved on to the quarterfinals with a hard-fought victory, this year by the margin of 2-0 with goals from junior Chris Conder and sophomore Mohammed Rashid.
The Ephs' fans who made the 90-minute trip down to Amherst were sent into delirium inside of four minutes, as the Ephs got off to the best possible start with a goal inside of four minutes. Conder took a corner from the right side of the field, a position that created four goals last weekend, and sent one of his beautiful in-swinging balls to the near post. The ball was knocked around but eventually fell to senior Matt Kastner on the right side of the penalty area, who then fed the ball back out to the wing to Conder. Conder then sent in another ball, this time looking for the back post, but his ball managed to elude the heads of every player. Caught off guard, Judge junior keeper Joe Graffy tried to tip the ball over the crossbar but was unable to get a finger to it, and the ball notched into the left panel of the goal.
After the early goal, the Judges settled into the game and started to control a majority of the possession as they hunted for an equalizer.
Their first chance came nine minutes after Conder's goal, as some neat passing down the right wing ends with a pass to senior Sam Ocel at the top of the box. Ocel fires a beautiful shot toward the top-right corner of Eph senior keeper Peter Morrell's goal, forcing Morrell to make a beautiful diving save, tipping the ball over the crossbar and out of danger.
In the very next minute, the Ephs had a pair of chances to double their lead. Senior User Kushaina showed some great skill to maneuver around his defender on the right side and send in a cross to the center of the box that Rashid was only inches away from burying into the back of the net. Kastner collected the clearance on the edge of the box and showed some great strength to drive to the touchline and then feed Rashid at the near post, but Rashid's pointblank shot was blocked out of danger by a Judge defender.
The Judges had another chance to equalize in the 33rd minute, when freshman Zach Vieira played a beautiful back-heel flicked pass over his defender's head, right into the path of junior Michael Soboff. Soboff drove toward goal and tried to chip Morrell, but his ball floated just over the crossbar for a goal kick.
The Ephs' best chance to go two goals up heading into halftime came three minutes later. Senior Dan Lima did well to win a fifty-fifty ball on the left side of the attack before centering the ball to Rashid at the top of the penalty area. Rashid struck a beautiful shot toward the right corner of the goal, but was saved spectacularly by Graffy. Junior Nathan Miller almost pounced on the loose ball after Graffy was unable to hold on to the save, but Graffy was able to fall on it right before Miller arrived.
The Ephs took their one-goal lead into halftime and came out in the second half, controlling more of the possession.
The Judges, however, had the first look at goal of the second half in the 55th minute. Senior Tudor Livadaru showed off his blazing speed to beat his defender to the touchline on the left side of the Judges' attack, where he rolled a low cross to the near post where Soboff was waiting, but he couldn't steer his shot on target, blasting it wide-left of Morrell's goal.
The Ephs immediately responded and created a chance of their own only two minutes later. Kastner outmuscled his defender once again on the left wing and was off to the races down the left side. He cut into the box and then laid the ball off to Rashid at the near post, but Rashid couldn't get enough power behind his left-footed shot to beat Graffy.
The back-and-forth play continued, but Brandeis created their best chance of the game to equalize with less than 18 minutes remaining in the game. Junior Tyler Savonen, who had been completely stonewalled all day by the impenetrable center-back duo of junior Luke Pierce and sophomore Geoff Danilack, finally was able to knife through the back line and receive a pass from Ocel. However, Danilack was able to recover quickly and did well to clear the ball for a corner with a risky, but perfectly timed, sliding tackle.
True to form, the Ephs responded to the Judges' chance with a chance of their own mere moments later, when sophomore Jonathan Westling knocked a Judge midfielder off the ball on the right wing and immediately played a pass to Lima, who was sitting on the penalty spot. Unfortunately, the ball got caught at Lima's feet, and he could do nothing but sky his shot over Graffy's crossbar.
In the 84th minute, however, the Ephs were finally able to finish one of their chances, as Rashid added his name to the long list of Eph scorers in the NCAA tournament. Freshman Malcolm Moutenot raced down the right sideline before centering the ball to junior Matt Muralles, just outside the Judges' penalty area. Muralles faked right and then played a perfectly-placed pass to Rashid on the left side of the box that put Rashid one-on-one with Graffy, and Rashid was not going to miss from that range, curling an eye-popping right-footed shot around Graffy and into the back of the net, sending the Ephs into a rematch of last year's quarterfinals matchup against Amherst.
With the win, the Ephs improve to 14-6-0 on the year, as Brandeis ends their season at 16-5-1.
The Ephs outshot the Judges by a margin of 19 to 10, with 11 of their shots on goal to the Judges' five. The Ephs had four corner kicks to the three of the Judges, but 17 fouls to just the nine of the Judges.