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Mandel '12 leads soccer on eve of championship

Forward Austin Mandel '12 scored the lone goals in the men's soccer team's last two victories off penalty kicks. One win came against Penn on a snowy Saturday night at Stevenson Field, and the other came against Yale in overtime last weekend. These two key conference victories set up a dramatic Ivy League showdown tomorrow against Dartmouth, where the winner will be crowned the Ivy champion and receive a berth in the NCAA Tournament. For his clutch kicks from the spot, The Herald has named Mandel Athlete of the Week.

The Herald: In the past two games, you've scored the winning goal off penalty kicks in two key Ivy matchups. What was running through your head when you lined up for those shots?

Mandel: I've taken a lot of penalty kicks throughout my career in soccer, so I knew where I was going to go, and I never really change my side. So I had a plan the whole time. I wasn't that nervous. I knew that, if I hit it well, that the goalie probably wouldn't save it — especially against Penn, I didn't think the goalie would be able to move in the snow. And against Yale, the goalie guessed right, and there was a moment where my heart stopped because his hand was literally an inch away from the ball, but luckily I hit it well enough and it went in. Now we get the chance to play for the Ivy League title.

Were you thinking about the title while you were taking the penalty kick?

Actually, no. Right when they called the penalty kick, I sprinted to get the ball so I could take the kick. I didn't want anyone else to take it.

What is your most memorable soccer moment at Brown?

Hopefully it's going to be on Saturday, after we win the Ivy League. But up to this point, making it to the round of 16 was pretty cool and getting to go to California. And just being in the NCAA tournament is awesome because you get treated like royalty. You get good meals, you get nice hotels — it's great. I hope we get another chance to do that this year, but winning the Ivy League would definitely be the top moment.  

What inspired you to start playing soccer in the first place?

Probably my brother. It was a long time ago. I've played all different sports growing up. I played basketball, and I was hopeless in that because I was too short.

Who are some of your favorite soccer players and why?

Currently, Barcelona because their whole team, the best players are pretty much five-seven and under, and they rule the soccer world, so they're probably my favorite. Like (Lionel) Messi is awesome, and (Andres) Iniesta, those are my two favorite players. They're small, they're not incredibly athletic, but they're close to the best players in the world.  

What is your funniest or most embarrassing soccer moment?

Actually, it happened during a penalty kick where I went up — it was a little wet, so it wasn't completely my fault — but I slipped, and barely touched the ball, and the goalie just ran and picked it up. Luckily I was young, so it wasn't that big of a deal. It was my first year of competitive soccer, so I was probably 11 or 12.  

What are you going to miss the most about Brown?

Not having any responsibilities. I'm going to miss the team. We were a really close group of kids and we get along really well. Even if we have a little quarrel or misunderstanding in practice, we squash it pretty quickly. I've been lucky.

If you could have dinner with any three people, who would they be?

I don't even know where to begin. I'd pick Iniesta, the soccer player on Barcelona. I just think he'd be an awesome person to hang out with. I would also choose — you're going to get my really broad personality sense right here — I'm going to go with Seth Rogen, because I think we'd get along for some reason. And Scarlett Johansson, because she's gorgeous and she'd just be good for us to look at while we eat dinner.  

What would you say to your fellow classmates who agree with President Ruth Simmons' recommendation that the University cut 20 admission slots for recruited athletes?

We've had a pretty rich history of athletics here and all the Ivy League schools have a pretty rich history in athletics. I understand why a lot of people would get upset at the fact that some of us get in over other people, but I would want them to know that all the work they put in academically, we also put in, and we put in work athletically.



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