Ocel tallies twice as Judges move on to second round

Sam Ocel '13 had his second-straight two-goal game tonight (Photo by Sportspix.biz/Jan Volk)
WALTHAM, Mass. – Brandeis University senior Sam Ocel (No. Attleboro, Mass./No. Attleboro) scored two early first-half goals tonight to lead the host Judges past the Baruch College Bearcats, 2-0, in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Tournament. With the win, the Judges improve to 17-2-1 and advance to the second round tomorrow at 5 p.m., where they will face Vassar College. Baruch ends its season at 11-6-3.

      Ocel scored the only goal the Judges would need on the first shot of the game. In the fifth minute, the ball was played into the goal mouth from the right side of the 18-yard box. After a deflection by a defender, it slid through diving Baruch goalkeeper Helder Correia to the foot of Ocel, who buried it at 4:13 for his 11th of the season. The goal was the eighth game-winner of the season for the University Athletic Association (UAA) Most Valuable Player.

"Sam has been outstanding all year," said 40th-year head coach Mike Coven. "His play speaks for itself."

      Just eight minutes and three seconds later, Ocel doubled the score. Senior Lee Russo (Westford, Mass./Westford Acad.) sent a pass into the right side of the box. Ocel was waiting at the far post to bury his 12th of the season. He tied Russo for the team lead in goals, while Russo's helper tied him with Ocel with eight on the campaign. Both have 32 points for the season.

      The rest of the first half was fairly evenly contested, with shots finishing at 6-4 in favor of the Judges. In the second half, the Judges dominated possession, outshooting Baruch, 14-2, and controlling the midfield. Correia made several nice saves in the early going, including two on Brandeis sophomore Tyler Savonen (Orleans, Mass./Nauset Regional).

The Bearcats' two shots were both high-quality saves by Brandeis senior Blake Minchoff (Fiskdale, Mass./Tantasqua Regional). He came off his line in the 60th minute to beat Baruch's Akil George to a ball right at the top of box, and then stoned the Bearcats' Victor Tlepshev in the 76th minute and leading scorer Oren Kozlwoski in the 82nd to preserve the shutout. Minchoff finished with four saves and recorded his eighth shutout of the season.

"Blake has become a premier goalkeeper," said Coven. "It's just hard work. He sure put in his hours, and look what he's done these past two years."

Helder kept his side in the game with seven stops, including five in the second half.

Brandeis's win is their first in the NCAA tournament since 1984. It came in front of a paid attendance of 575 boisterous fans.

"We've been all over the country - UAA schools, New England schools. Nobody has better fans than we do," said Coven of the support from the crowd. "Our fans give us a little adrenaline rush. Our fans are great. What they've done this year and the way that they've come out and supported us, it's great for the school. It shows that Brandeis has school spirit. People come out to the games now, not just to see these guys play, but because it's fun and the atmosphere is fun."

In the second game, a penalty kick by Vassar College senior back Zander Mrlik in the 102nd minute tonight lifted the Brewers into the second round of the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Championship. With the win, the Brewers improve to 13-4-3 on the season and will face host Brandeis in the second round tomorrow at 5 p.m. Tufts ends their campaign at 9-4-4.

      Tufts controlled play in regulation, outshooting Vassar, 16-6, and earning 13 corner kicks to just two for the Brewers. The shots on goal were even, however, with Tufts getting four attempts on Ryan Grimme and Vassar forcing Wyatt Zeller to make three stops for the Jumbos. Grimme's best effort came 5:01 into the game when he made a diving attempt to deflect Tufts sophomore Maxime Hoppenot's ball just past the post. Zeller's toughest chance was late in the contest, when he punched out a corner in the 83rd minute.

      In the overtime session, it was a different story, as Vassar was able to penetrate the Jumbo midfield. Though there were not shots taken in the first overtime session, the Brewers seemed finally to find seams into the attack. They got the first shot of the extra session 46 seconds in on an attempt by Justin Mitchell, but it was with 8:19 on the clock that the key whistle was blown. After Vassar forward Dante Varotsis beat a Tufts defender to a ball near the goal line to the left of the net. Varotsis was hauled down in the box to earn the PK, and Mrlik calmly potted it as Zeller dived to his left. It was Mrlik's fifth goal of the season and second game-winner.

      The win sets up the first-ever meeting between Vassar and Brandeis. 

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