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Men’s soccer falters against Penn

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Monday, November 3, 2008

The men’s soccer team headed into the matchup with Penn on Saturday night with a week of rest, but playing a man down and falling into a 2-0 hole going into the half, the Bears (9-5-1, 3-2 Ivy) could not pull off the win, falling by a score of 4-0 to the Quakers (10-2-3, 4-1).

Head Coach Mike Noonan cited the team’s inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities as a major factor in the loss and a persistent problem for the Bears of late.

“Penn is a very good defensive team,” Noonan said. “We did have some good opportunities to score, but didn’t convert them again.”

The Quakers got off to a quick start as Omid Shokoufandeh scored two goals within 14 minutes of one another in the first half. His first goal came on a penalty kick after a foul in the box. Darren Howerton ’09 was given a yellow card for protesting the penalty kick. Shortly after, Howerton picked up his second yellow card of the game and the officials ejected him in the 20th minute. From that point on, the Bears played one man down.

“It was certainly a big turning point,” said David Walls ’11. “We still had chances after that to score some goals. We lost a lot of concentration and focus after that point and didn’t stick to the game plan.”

Five minutes after Howerton’s ejection, Shokoufandeh scored his second goal, sending the Bears into the half down 2-0.

“The second goal definitely put us back a notch,” said Rhett Bernstein ’09. “Although we really bounced back in the beginning of the second half. The first 15-20 minutes, things were definitely going our way. It was a battle, we were just out-competed.”

The Bears came out stronger in the opening minutes of the second half, but were unable to cut into the Quakers’ lead. Penn’s Andrew Ferry and Loukas Tasigianis scored two more goals to finish out the game for the Quakers, 4-0.

Bernstein, Jon Okafor ’11 and Captain Stephen Sawyer ’09 recorded the Bears’ three shots on goal on the evening. The Quakers outshot Bruno, 12-9, but Brown held a 3-1 advantage in corner kicks.

Paul Grandstrand ’11 (3-4-0) received the loss in net, tallying three saves.

“The team handled (being down one man) well,” Noonan said. “We’ve trained in practice what to do in that situation. Our overall play wasn’t affected as a result of going a man down. Our mentality was only affected with maybe a penalty and one or two goals.”

Penn moves to a first-place tie in the Ivy League with Harvard. Harvard lost to Dartmouth last Saturday night, 1-0, putting Brown in fourth place, just behind the Big Green. The Bears will face off against Dartmouth in their final game of the season, broadcast nationally on Fox Soccer Channel. The team is looking to finish out the season strong despite its two conference losses.

“We have nothing to lose now,” Bernstein said. “We need to play our best soccer for the next two games. We need to prove that we’re still a good team, and capable of being one of the better teams in the country.”

With two conference games remaining, the Bears still have an outside shot to defend their Ivy League title. In addition, Coach Noonan believes the team still has a great chance to make the NCAA tournament despite the two conference losses. The team’s strength of schedule will highlight the team’s resume when the committee decides what teams receive at-large bids. Brown’s season has included a win over BC, which is currently 4-3 in the powerful ACC, and losses to No. 4 St. John’s, in addition to Penn and Harvard.

The Bears face off against Yale on Saturday at 4:30 for the senior class’s final game at Stevenson Field. Seniors on the team consist of Bernstein, Howerton, Will Lee ’09, Jarrett Leech ’09, and Captains Sawyer and Dylan Sheehan ’09.

Unfortunately, Howerton will not be able to play, due to a one-game suspension resulting from his actions in Saturday’s game. “We’re going to try to finish the season strong,” Walls said. “We have the opportunity to win two games and make a run for the tournament. We’re the reigning champs – we have to play well and defend our conference title to the very end.”

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