Men's soccer earns No. 1 seed in league tourney

The Rensselaer men’s soccer team continued on its conquest of the Liberty League this past weekend after taking down the Vassar College Brewers in the team’s final regular season game of the year by a score of 4-0. The win gave RPI, ranked sixth in the nation for Division-III soccer, the top seed in the upcoming Liberty League Tournament. The Engineers improved to 13-1-2 overall and 6-1-0 in the league, while the Brewers fell to 9-6-1 overall and 3-3-1 within the conference. Vassar will not be making the trip to the conference tournament this year, as the Brewers needed the win to crack the four-team tournament. A win from Hobart College earlier in the day over Hamilton College aided Rensselaer in its bid for the No. 1 seed. For the Engineers, the win simply means home field advantage today for the start of the playoffs.

The visiting Engineers commanded the first half of the game, edging the Brewers in shots, 8-4, and taking the 1-0 lead. Freshman Tom Kelly put RPI on the board in the 21st minute as he stole the ball midfield and made the quick transition toward the opposing cage. Although a member of the Brewer squad was able to get in front of Kelly, he could not clear the ball. Kelly regained control of the ball and fired a shot that deflected off an opposing player and into the net for the eventual game-winner.

Knowing that the stakes were on the line, Vassar wasn’t prepared to roll over and let the Engineers come out with the easy win. The Brewers put up several chances following RPI’s goal, including a throw-in from freshman Zander Mrlik at the 27th minute that landed directly in front of Rensselaer’s net. Senior Brewer Brian Bianchetti headed the ball, but it deflected off an Engineer and out of bounds. Minutes later, Vassar nearly placed on the boards as junior Jimmy Worboys kicked the ball into the box from 40 yards out, which struck Mrlik’s head and sailed over the crossbar.

Early into the second half, senior Lincoln Field padded Rensselaer’s advantage by netting his seventh goal of the year at the 50 minute mark. From 20 yards out, Field pivoted on the play and blasted a shot just under the crossbar and past senior keeper Jake London. The lead ramped up to three goals at the 63rd minute as senior Sean Fleury scampered up the field and sent a cross pass into the box. Fleury connected with classmate Jabel Prom on the play, who one-timed a shot into the back left corner of the net, registering his sixth goal of the year. Junior Bryce Hutchinson capped off scoring for the night with just a minute remaining in the game as he converted on a pass from Kelly to collect his third tally of the year.

Although RPI held an 18-11 advantage in shots, the Brewers squeaked out in corner kicks 6-1. Vassar could not solve junior goaltender Alex Penny, who finished with two saves to record his 10th shutout of the season. At the other end of the field, London made six saves in his final game in a Brewers jersey.

Head Coach Adam Clinton is optimistic about the team’s chances against Union this weekend. “Right now we’re making sure were prepared for tie breakers by working on penalty kicks. Union always brings a lot of energy and a disruptive style of play, so we’re going to bring the intensity to match theirs.”

The win keeps the Engineers’ season rolling, with the first playoff game to be held in Troy. Today, RPI will host Union College in a match at the East Campus Stadium of the East Campus Athletic Village. The game begins at 7:30 pm.