GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA – A golden goal in the 105th minute sunk the championship hopes of the Brandeis University men's soccer team tonight as the Judges suffered a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Messiah College in the semifinals of the NCAA Division III Tournament tonight.
"I couldn't be prouder of the effort we put in tonight," said Brandeis first-year head coach Gabe Margolis after the game. "We put ourselves in a position to win. Soccer is a funny game, and a cruel game, and it's also a great game. Today we were on the wrong end of it, but I can't say enough about how well our team represented Brandeis University and Brandeis Soccer."
The winning goal came off the foot of Messiah's Justin Brautigam with just over five minutes separating the teams from penalty kicks. Kirby Robbins picked up the assist as Brautigam's shot slipped just under the crossbar.
The game got off to a balanced start with a scoreless first-half that saw shots even at 5-5, and Messiah with two shots on goal to one for the Judges. Brandeis twice took a one-goal lead in the second half, only to see Messiah come back and equalize.
Brandeis opened the scoring in the 60th minute on the first goal of the season by senior back Sam Vinson. After senior Josh Ocel sent a corner kick into a crowded box, senior Patrick Flahive headed it to rookie Noah Gans. Gans sent it toward the near post, and Vinson was there to punch home his first goal of the season with 59:26 left in regulation.
"This has been the most fun two years of my life," said Vinson, who transferred to Brandeis before last season. "Every single day, we've worked hard to reach our goals. It's unfortunate we didn't get to the final, but at the same time, I couldn't be prouder of our boys."
Messiah answered in the 72nd minute on the first goal of the season by Adam Cole. The Falcons' Shay Quinton sent a cross through the box that Brandeis senior goalkeeper Ben Woodhouse tried to punch away. He was unable to get a good punch on the ball, and Cole headed it home at the 71:51 mark.
Brandeis reclaimed the lead in the 80th minute. Junior Andrew Allen netted his sixth goal of the season off an assist by sophomore Colin Panarra. Panarra dribbled into the box and stopped the ball near the penalty spot. He provided a screen, allowing Allen to drive the ball into the right netting exactly eight minutes after the previous goal at 79:51.
Unfortunately for the Judges, the Falcons need just 40 seconds to get the goal back. A cross from Nick West found Robbins at the top of the 18-yard box, and his volley went into the right netting to bring the game back to even.
Brandeis earned a corner in the 83rd minute, but Messiah keeper Connor Bell punched it away to keep it from curling into the net. On the counter, Woodhouse denied MC's Colby Thomas's shot toward the near post. Vinson kept up his terrific defensive game by blocking a late shot out of bounds to force overtime.
The first OT session went pretty much without incident – a cross by Ocel in the 93rd minute was nearly headed into the Messiah goal by a defender, but it scooted just wide of the post. Woodhouse came well off his line to deny Messiah's Danny Brandt in the 98th minute.
For the game, Messiah finished with a 21-10 edge in shots, including 7-4 in shots on goal. Woodhouse made four saves in the losing effort, while Bell had two for the win for MC.
The Judges' season comes to an end in the semifinal round of the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row. They finish with a record of 17-5. Messiah improves to 23-2 and will meet the winner of North Park and Chicago tomorrow at 7 p.m. in search of the 11th national title in program history.