Sports

M. soccer scores upset in NCAA

By
Sports Editor
Monday, November 22, 2010

The No. 22 men’s soccer team has made it to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 after defeating the No. 9 University of Connecticut in a thrilling game that went to a penalty shootout. The Bears won the shootout, 7-6, after battling the Huskies to a 1-1 deadlock in the 110 minutes of regulation and overtime play in Storrs, Conn.

“There’s only 16 teams left in the whole country playing, and for us to be one of them is extremely exciting,” said Head Coach Pat Laughlin.

Midfielder Jay Hayward ’12 scored the decisive goal for Bruno (12-3-4, 3-3-1 Ivy League), scoring in the eighth round of the shootout to book a ticket for his team into the next round.

The Bears had to recover from a devastating equalizer from UConn (12-2-6) just minutes before the end of regulation. Brown had been holding on to a one-goal lead for almost the entire game, after a strike by midfielder Taylor Gorman ’12 in the eighth minute opened the scoring.

But with their season on the line, the Huskies pressed the Bears’ defense the entire second half, tallying 11 shots to the Bears’ one. In the 87th minute, they finally broke through off a free kick. Forward Mamadou Diouf headed the ball past goalkeeper and co-captain Paul Grandstrand ’11, tying the game and shifting all the momentum to the home side.

“It was a real body blow for us,” said co-captain defender David Walls ’11. “It hurt us a lot because we were so close. To give up the goal in the manner we did — from a free kick that we didn’t believe was going to be a free kick — was tough.”

But the squad persevered, and both Laughlin and Walls said the team’s strong mentality was nothing out of the ordinary for this Bruno squad.

“One of the hallmarks of the team has been their mental toughness,” Laughlin said. “They’re always playing for keeps and they make sure they play hard the entire time.”

“It took us a couple of minutes to get over it,” Walls said. “Coach gave a real inspirational talk, and we just came out in overtime with a lot of belief.”

Neither team was able to break through in the two 10-minute overtime periods, so the game headed to a shootout. Walls said Brown was mentally prepared for perhaps the most nerve-wracking experience in soccer, especially after losing to Providence College on penalty kicks earlier in the season.

“We’re not scared of failure right now,” he said. “We’re a strong team. We just had to go out there and do what we do all the time — put the ball in the net.”

The first four Bears in the shootout — midfielder Thomas McNamara ’13, Gorman, forward Austin Mandel ’12 and defender Dylan Remick ’13 — did just that. Grandstrand blocked UConn’s third attempt, parrying away forward Stephane Diop’s shot and giving the Bears an advantage. But defender Ian Smith ’11, the fifth and final shooter, had his shot blocked by Husky goalie Matt Sangeloty to even the shootout score at 4-4. Then, with the score at 6-6, defender Max Wasserman missed his shot for the Huskies. Hayward finally stepped up and hit the game-winner into the back of the net.

Walls credited Grandstrand, who along with his save also converted a penalty kick in the shootout, with leading the way to the Bruno victory.

“Like I’ve said many times before this year, we have a goalkeeper that we believe in,” Walls said. “Paul is definitely going to take the hero status of today.”

Laughlin also noted Gorman and the importance of scoring the first goal in a hostile road environment.

The goal “was a great lift for us,” Laughlin said. “One of the challenges of the NCAA tournament is if you don’t have a bye, you need to play Thursday and then travel to a rested team. That was a big challenge, so the goal really lifted our spirits and got the team going.”

Walls said his team recovered well from Thursday’s home victory against Boston College, and he partly credited the fans who made the trip to Connecticut for raising Bruno’s energy.

“We definitely took it to them… Even though we played the other night, we felt fresh, we had a lot of energy,” he said. “We took so many fans down there. It was great to look into the stands and see so many people in Brown sweatshirts and Brown hats.”

The next opponent for the team is No. 6 University of California at Berkeley (13-2-3), who defeated No. 14 University of California at Santa Barbara (14-4-3) by a 2-1 margin in the second round. The Bears will travel across the country and play the Golden Bears next Sunday.

“We’re just so excited for this part of the journey,” Walls said. “Cal is very well-respected, and they’ve played some good teams this year. But we like our chances — we like our chances against anybody.”

Ahead of the team’s trip to California, the co-captain went back to the team mantra that the players have been following all season.

“It’s just another chapter in the book,” Walls said. “We’re going to go out there and play for keeps.”

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