AMHERST, Mass. (courtesy Amherst College) – The most successful Brandeis men's soccer season in decades came to a close today as the Judges fell to Williams College, 1-0, in the Sweet 16 of the 2012 NCAA Division Soccer Tournament.
Eph senior Patrick Ebobisse scored in the 63rd minute off a Mohammed Rashid assist to lift Williams to the win at Hitchcock Field in Amherst.
The win advances the Ephs (16-1-2) to tomorrow's Elite Eight game, to be played at 1:30 p.m. Brandeis ends its season at 18-3-1.
Looking for early offense, Brandeis nearly struck in the third minute when senior Sam Ocel (No. Attleboro, Mass./North Attleboro) struck a strong cross into the box that deflected off a Williams defender and required a diving stop from Williams' Than Finan '13 to prevent an own goal.
Another fine piece of goalkeeping kept it scoreless in the 11th minute when Ebobisse found space near the top of the 18 and blasted a strong volley, but Brandeis senior Blake Minchoff (Fiskdale, Mass./Tantasqua Regional) was equal to the task, lunging to his right to knock away the attempt.
Brandeis nearly earned a penalty kick moments later on a Williams foul inches outside the box. Ocel took the ensuing set piece, but his hard shot was just wide of the left post.
The Judges had a great opportunity go awry in the 24th when Tyler Savonen (Orleans, Mass./Nauset Regional) sent a beautiful through ball to Ocel on the right side, but his clean look flew just high. The teams entered halftime scoreless and even in shots, 4-4.
With even play to start the second half, neither team had a good chance to break the deadlock until Williams finally struck in the 63rd. Gathering a loose ball near the left corner, Rashid used nifty footwork to beat his defender and enter the box. The rookie sent a hard low cross for Ebobisse, who outmuscled his defender, putting a toe on it for the finish into the bottom left corner, putting the Ephs up 1-0.
Brandeis found its best chance to even it in the 81st when a loose bouncing ball in the box nearly gave Lee Russo (Westford, Mass./Westford Acad.) a chance at a close-range shot, but Finan arrived just in time to secure possession for the Ephs.
With Brandeis pressuring hard in the closing minutes, the Williams defense anchored by center-backs Matt Ratajczak '13 and Dan Lima '14 held fast, preventing any good looks until a dramatic final minute.
In a desperate late push, Russo sent a promising corner in with 40 seconds remaining, and Ocel put a good header on it, but the attempt was right at Finan. The Judges had one more look on a free kick from Russo with 17 seconds on the clock, but again Finan was positioned for an easy save, icing the win for Williams.
Both Finan and Minchoff finished with four saves, while Brandeis held a 15-10 edge in shots and an 8-4 advantage in corners.
Brandeis seniors Minchoff, Russo and Joe Eisenbies (Hingham, Mass./Hingham) end their careers with 51 wins, two ECAC tournament titles and the program's first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1985. Ocel, who missed his entire sophomore season to injury, will be back as a graduate student next year.