SALEM, Virginia – Playing in the semifinals of the NCAA Division III Championship tournament for the first time in 32 years, the Brandeis University men's soccer team suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat at the hands of Calvin College today at Kerr Stadium on the campus of Roanoke College.
The game's lone goal came in the 74th minute. Moments earlier, Calvin looked to have a breakaway, but the Brandeis defense resorted to fouling to prevent the scoring opportunity. The infraction was whistled just outside the 18-yard box, but the referee issued a red card, forcing Brandeis to play the rest of the game a man down.
On the ensuing free kick, Brandeis junior goalkeeper Ben Woodhouse (Suffield, Conn./Suffield) stopped the initial shot with a one-handed dive to his right. In the scrum that followed, Calvin and Brandeis players converged on the ball. Sophomore back Stephen DePietto (Westbury, N.Y./Berkshire School) trapped the ball between his legs and the post, but a Knight player kept hammering at the ball. Eventually it popped free, and Calvin's Micah Beard was able to put it across the line.
Woodhouse was outstanding for the Judges all game long. He was credited with four saves, and made a number of other fantastic plays by coming off his line. Three of those four stops came in the first half. He stoned Calvin's Jacob Witte with a kick save in the 17th minute and then stoned him again in the 20th minute after Brandeis turnover. In the 21st minute, he punched a shot from Matt Hinds over the crossbar.
"It was a lot of fun," Woodhouse said after the game. "In a platform like this, when the pressure is on, that's why you're a goalkeeper. I liked the pressure."
Woodhouse's finest play may have come in the 40th minute. He came well off his line to his right, venturing out of the box. In order to clear the ball from a Calvin attacker, he slid and appeared to cradle the ball, but avoided using his arms as the ball sailed away out of bounds.
Overall, the first half was an evenly-played, back-and-forth affair. The Judges had a fine opportunity in early on in the third minute, when DePietto slotted a terrific through ball to senior Evan Jastremski (Marshfield, Mass./Marshfield). The midfielder was unable to settle the ball at his feet, however, and the Knight defense was able to recover as Jastremski attempted to go to goal.
In the 10th minute, junior Brandon Miskin (Needham, Mass./Needham) tested Calvin's Nate Van Ryn with a header that was snatched out of the air. In the 29th minute, Miskin appeared to have Van Ryn beaten, but hit the far post.
Brandeis came out in the second half and controlled play from the get-go. In the 48th minute, junior Christian Hernandez (Revere, Mass./Lawrence Academy) drilled a hard shot from the top of the box that was blocked by a Calvin defender. The Knights went on the counter-attack, starting a 3-on-2 break, but senior Kyle Robinson (York, Maine/Phillips Exeter) did a fine job getting back to snuff out the rush.
In a three-minute span, the Judges had three terrific attempts come up just short. They looked to have broken the ice in the 51st minute, when Jastremski's cross from the left flank was drilled home by a charging Mike Lynch (Weymouth, Mass./Weymouth), but Brandeis was ruled offside on the play. In the 53rd minute, it was a free kick from senior Josh Ocel (No. Attleboro, Mass./Worcester Academy) that Hernandez redirected on net with his chest, while in the 54th, senior Zach Vieira (Andover, Mass./Brooks School) had a strike from about 20 yards snapped up.
Woodhouse made another amazing play in the 62nd minute, when a ball was redirected towards him by one of his own defenders, but he punched it wide of the far post. Brandeis's Josh Berg (Weymouth, Mass./Weymouth) headed a long free kick from Ocel on net in the 70th minute, while just prior to the Calvin score, a Knight defender barely prevented junior Marino Espiga (Winchester, Mass./Winchester) from redirecting home a cross.
Though the Judges were down a man after Calvin took the lead in the 74th minute, the Judges nearly got the goal back immediately when Ocel's free kick was headed just wide by sophomore Joshua Handler (Oakdale, Conn./Montville). In the 85th minute, Jastremski volleyed well wide from about 10 yards out. The Judges had one last-ditch effort when Robinson shot from the left side of the field ticketed for the top-right corner, but Van Ryn made his best save of the game to preserve the Knight's one-goal lead.
Despite the loss, Brandeis head coach Mike Coven was proud of his team, telling them that they "played the game the right way and that they deserve to hold their heads high after the performance they gave."
Brandeis showed tremendous support for the Judges this season, with terrific attendance in Virginia.
"We are a big soccer school," said 44th—year head coach Mike Coven after the game. "We had fans out there: alumni, the student body, the vice president of the University, all sorts of administrators, and we had tremendous support. Vocal, and great. And it's not just this year. I've been very fortunate to work at a school… where soccer has been a main priority."
Brandeis ends its season at 13-6-4 in the fourth Final Four in team history. Calvin improves to 23-2 and will meet Tufts University tomorrow at 1:30 for the championship.