Sports

M. soccer tops Yale in playoff run

By
Assistant Sports Editor
Thursday, November 12, 2009

The men’s soccer team (9-2-5, 4-2-0 Ivy) needed a win at Yale (5-8-3, 2-4-0) on Saturday to keep its Ivy League title and postseason hopes alive. Down a goal in the opening five minutes, Brown had to claw its way back into the game with a goal by T.J. Popolizio ’12 — the first goal of his career — before Thomas McNamera ’13 scored the game winner in the 81st minute, keeping the Bears in the hunt with a 2-1 win over the Bulldogs.

Coming off a loss to Penn last weekend, the Bears came out with a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm, said co-captain David Walls ’11. Yale’s Scott Armbrust tried to deflate the Bears as they surrendered a goal at the 4:12 mark on several miscues by the entire defensive unit. Armbrust took the ball on an awkward bounce off Dylan Remick’s ’13 chest and sent the ball past goalkeeper Paul Grandstrand ’11 from six yards out. But the Bears kept fighting for better scoring opportunities.

“It was a good game that we needed to have,” Popolizio said. “It was a different feel than the game against Penn, when we could never get started on offense. Once we went down a goal, the team was unfazed. We had the feeling that we had at the beginning of the year that we could come back and win.”

Taylor Gorman ’12 and Walls began a pivotal scoring drive in the 22nd minute when Walls placed a ball right to Popolizio, who nailed a diving header into the goal, tying the game at 1-1.

Popolizio entered the game with only a few minutes under his belt leading up to the first start of his collegiate career, but his teammates knew he had the ability to score and, when called upon, could give the team valuable minutes in crucial game situations.

“Every time he plays, you’re going to get 100 percent effort,” Walls said. “His attitude is fantastic and he’s a real hard worker. We have to be good from the first to the 26th man. With guys stepping up right and left, it shows how much depth and strength we have as a whole unit.”

Play between the Bears and the Bulldogs remained close, and the game turned into a defensive battle as a mere five shots on goal were recorded between the two clubs throughout the game. The Bears were attacking well but were one step too late in executing some of their chances.

“After the game, we saw the stats and were surprised that we only had three shots on goal,” Grandstrand said. “We’ve been working on getting the ball to the top of the box all year and trying to create close-range shots from there, but we were just one step too slow. That hurt us because we couldn’t get off as many quality shots.”

With the score tied in the final 10 minutes of play, the Bears attacked the Bulldogs’ defense for the win. Brown sent the ball into Yale territory and Poplizio found himself at the top of the box. He outran his defender and slid into the ball for a touch to McNamera, who sent the ball to the back of the net from eight yards out. McNamera tallied his fourth goal of the season, tied for second on the team, and Popolizio recorded his first college assist on the night.

“We’ve been working real hard in practice — it’s good to see our efforts pay off ,” Popolizio said. “We’ve been a little low the past few weeks and struggled against Penn in our last game. It’s great that we’re hitting our stride heading into the big game this weekend.”

Brown held the lead and claimed its fourth Ivy League win of the season with the 2-1 win over Yale. The Bears are currently tied for second with their next opponent, Dartmouth (10-5-1, 4-2-0), whom they face this upcoming Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Stevenson Field for a battle that will end in a possible Ivy League title — if Harvard loses to Penn on Saturday — and a probable postseason bid for the winner.

“Both teams are realistically playing for the same thing: either a chance of an Ivy title or a postseason berth,” Grandstrand said. “We’re expecting Dartmouth’s best game, and they’re expecting ours. That’s what happens in a playoff atmosphere.”

The game on Sunday marks the last home regular season game for Nick Elenz-Martin ’10, Jarrod Schlenker ’10, T.J. Thompson ’10 and co-captain Thomas Thunell ’10, who have devoted long hours of hard work and led a young squad of 19 underclassmen.

“They’ve brought a huge commitment level to the program and have put as much into Brown soccer as anybody,” Walls said. “Each one of the four has played a huge part in the recent history of Brown soccer. We want to make their last regular season home game memorable.”