Sports

Men’s soccer’s free kick, defense ruin Dartmouth’s perfect record

Win over Big Green solidifies third-place conference finish, highest for Bruno since 2012

By
Staff Writer
Monday, November 16, 2015

The Bears (10-5-2, 4-1-2 Ivy) eked out a 1-0 victory over the Big Green (11-5-1, 6-1) thanks to a penalty conversion by Tariq Abu-Akeel ’16.

On a bitterly cold night, friends, family and fans gathered to celebrate the senior class of the men’s soccer team in the last home game of the season. Before the game, the class of 2016 was honored for its accolades and commitment to the program. The accomplishments were plentiful, but there was one thing the team still had not done: take down Dartmouth.

That changed Saturday night.

The Bears (10-5-2, 4-1-2 Ivy) eked out a 1-0 victory over the Big Green (11-5-1, 6-1) thanks to a penalty conversion by Tariq Abu-Akeel ’16. The win ended Dartmouth’s bid for a perfect Ivy campaign. The win, combined with Harvard’s victory on the night, also cemented the Bears’ third-place finish in the Ivy League, their best position since 2012.

“This victory means so much because we haven’t beaten them in a while,” said co-captain Jack Gorab ’16. “They are back-to-back champs, and we normally compete at the top of the standings so this game is always a battle.”

The Big Green featured the stingiest defense in the entire conference. Throughout Ivy play, it had only given up one goal thanks to a solid defensive backline and goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland. Cleveland, a two-time Ivy League Player of the Week, had posted eight shutouts going into this game. Overall, the Big Green averaged a mere 0.62 goals allowed per game.

“We knew that they had a really good defense and goalkeeper, so we wanted to create plenty of chances to give ourselves a shot,” Gorab said. “We wanted to take advantage of our skill on the wings to get at their backs.”

Three of the team’s five seniors featured in the starting lineup: Akeel, Gorab and Jameson Lochhead ’16. Co-captain Tim Whalen ’16, traditionally a starter, was forced to sit this match out after getting a red card last week against Yale.

The visitors controlled most of the first stanza and demonstrated why they deserved to be Ivy champions. But the Bears’ backline remained resolute in its defending. Though Dartmouth controlled a lot of possession, the Bears turned up the pressure to minimize the amount of time the Big Green spent in Bruno’s defensive third.

Neither team was able to establish a consistent rhythm in the first 15 minutes of the game. Dartmouth had more of the quality chances, including a rocket shot from about 25 yards out. Joey Cipicchio ’18, making his second start of the year, got his hands on the shot and redirected it off the post. He was called upon about 10 minutes later when some quick passing by Dartmouth resulted in a close range shot right at Cipicchio, who made the save comfortably and kept the score at 0-0 going into halftime.

“Cipiccio made some absolutely huge saves for us,” Whalen said.

As has been typical of this Bears team, it came out in the second half with renewed energy. Toward the end of the first half, it had shown signs of continuous pressure on the Big Green’s defense, and it carried that momentum into the second stanza.

In the first 15 minutes of the second half, Bruno created more quality chances than it had in the entire first half. Three separate shots flashed just wide of Cleveland’s posts. In the 66th, a through ball from Nico Lozada ’18 found Akeel, who struck a shot near post that was saved.

In the 67th, the Bears got their golden opportunity when Cleveland tackled Lozada in the box, for which the referee awarded a penalty. Akeel stepped up and buried the penalty for his fourth goal of the season and third penalty conversion.

Dartmouth then controlled possession but was forced to pass along the backline thanks to the high pressure from Bruno. The Big Green pushed relentlessly and poured men and long balls forward in search of its equalizer to keep its perfect Ivy season alive.

Its best chance came in the dying minute of the game, when a cross was sent into the box and redirected on net. But Cipicchio was there to stop it point blank, preserving the lead for the Bears. From there, Bruno coasted to the final whistle and emerged victorious.

Though the Big Green were still Ivy champions, the Bears — and their seniors — held their heads high after this emphatic victory against a program it had not beaten in six years. Not only had it ended Dartmouth’s undefeated Ivy season, but it had also snapped the Big Green’s four-game shutout streak.

“To send them home on a loss was great for us,” Whalen said.

“Being able to play at home for the final time and beat them is something that I’ll remember for a long time,” Gorab said.

Now, the team anxiously awaits the selection show on Monday in the hopes of receiving an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. The team has not been to the tournament since 2012.

No matter the outcome, this season bodes well for the team moving forward. Though five players are graduating, the remaining players have shown time and time again that they are ready to step up when called upon.

“Playing here at Brown has been such an honor, and I’ve really enjoyed my four years here,” Gorab said. “It’s bittersweet leaving the team, but I know that we have a bunch of young guys and a very promising future.”