Ocel scores dramatic goal to send MSoccer past Thomas to 2nd round, 2-1

Josh Ocel '17 (photo by Sportspix.com/Mike Broglio)
Josh Ocel '17 (photo by Sportspix.com/Mike Broglio)

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Brandeis University men's soccer team used a dramatic goal, scoring with less than a minute to go in regulation, to defeat visiting Thomas College, 2-1, in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Tournament on Gordon Field. With the win, the Judges advance to tomorrow's second round, where they will meet the winner of the evening's second game between RPI and Stevens Institute of Technology.

With the win, Brandeis improves to 17-2-1 on the season. The Judges are ranked No. 3 in Division 3 by the NSCAA and No. 5 by D3soccer.com. Thomas closes its season at 13-5-1.

The winning goal came off the foot of junior midfielder Josh Ocel (North Attleboro, Mass./Worcester Academy). Ocel received a free kick from midfield off the foot of Conor Lanahan (Suffield, Conn./Suffield) about 35 yards away from the goal. Ocel launched a rocket into the right side past a diving Thomas goalkeeper to give Brandeis the game-winner with just 42.6 seconds left in regulation. The goal was reminiscent of one scored by his brother, Sam, in the second round of the tournament in 2012, one that beat the clock against Vassar College with 29.4 seconds left.

Brandeis had to come from behind to win for only the second time this season, as Thomas struck for an early goal. Terrier rookie D.J. Nicholas (Portland, Maine/North Yarmouth Acad.) sent a terrific through ball on a counter-attack that was slotted home by sophomore midfielder Willie Clemons (Paget, Bermuda/Warwick Acad.) at the 13:26 mark. Clemons' goal was his ninth of the season.

The Judges answered just over 10 minutes later at the 23:47 mark. Rookie Joshua Handler (Oakdale, Conn./Montville) made a terrific cross from the right sideline to sophomore Patrick Flahive (Glenwood, Ill./Worcester Acad.). Flahive headed it past a charging netminder for his third of the year.

Brandeis controlled the stats in the first half, outshooting Thomas, 16-2, and taking eight of the nine corners. The Judges also were handed a golden opportunity when the Terriers were sent down to 10 men in the 32nd minute after receiving a red card, but the visitors hung tough. Terrier junior Joakim Sternas (Stockholm, Sweden/Bromma Gymnasium) gave his team a chance by making seven of his 10 saves after his side was rendered shorthanded.

The Brandeis defense was stellar, as the Judges ended the game with a 33-5 edge in shots, 12-0 in shots on goal. Brandeis also had a 15-3 advantage in corner kicks. With the win, Brandeis improves to 15-0 this season in games decided by one goal.  Brandeis is looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the fourth year in a row.

In the second game of the evening, RPI (12-4-3) took on Stevens Institute of Technology (15-4-2) in a thrilling match that the Engineers won 2-1 in overtime.

All of the action was packed into the second half and overtime. In the 54th minute, Stevens was caught on the counterattack as senior midfielder Matt Carberry (Auburn, N.Y.) threaded a beautiful ball in to classmate forward Nathaniel Gunderson (Olympia, Wash.). Gunderson took a touch to beat his defender, saw the keeper was off his line near the 18, and finished brilliantly to put the Engineers up 1-0.

Stevens roared back over the next half hour, having two goals off set pieces called back and falling victim to an excellent save by RPI's sophomore netminder Ryan Nealon (Somers, N.Y.). Still, the Ducks persevered and broke through in the 89th minute. After winning the ball in their defensive third, Stevens began a quick counter up the right flank. Senior forward Carson Pryor (St. Louis, Mo.) found classmate Jeff Althoff making a fantastisc diagonal run behind the defense. Althoff took a touch and launched a right-footed blast into the netting to draw the Ducks even, 1-1.

It would take an overtime period to prove the balance of this match. Just over seven minutes into the first overtime, Gunderson was played in behind his defender but was tripped up right around the box from behind. After a brief consultation with his line judge, the referee awarded RPI a penalty kick. Senior defender Paul Lentine (Penfield, N.Y.) stepped to the spot and drilled his shot past the diving keeper to send his team on to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

RPI will take on Brandeis tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. on Gordon Field.