RPI men’s soccer spent the weekend in Waltham, Massachusetts, participating in the NCAA tournament. The Engineers defeated Stevens Institute of Technology 2-1 on Saturday, and lost to Brandeis University 1-2 Sunday, barely missing the Sweet 16.
The first half of Saturday’s game was uneventful for both sides. Neither team was able to take the lead, with only nine shots on goal between the two teams. Ultimately, it would be the second half and overtime that would decide the game.
In the 54th minute, senior midfielder Matt Carberry defended a Stevens attack. Working quickly and taking advantage of the opportunity, Carberry connected with senior forward Nathaniel Gunderson, who also saw the golden opportunity. Gunderson beat his defender and, seeing the Duck’s keeper was off his line, gave the Engineers a 1-0 lead.
Not to be outdone, Stevens fought back and put the pressure on RPI sophomore goalie Ryan Nealon, who had to make five saves during the second half to keep the Stevens onslaught at bay. Rensselaer was almost out of the woods when, in the 89th minute, Stevens forward Carson Pryor passed to forward Jeff Althoff, who had made a diagonal run past the Engineer’s defense. Taking a touch to settle the ball, Althoff was able to slip one past Nealon to tie the game and push it overtime.
Seven minutes into overtime, Gunderson was again on the attack. Before he could get a shot off, he was tripped from behind inside the box, giving RPI a golden, although less glorious, opportunity. Senior Paul Lentine was brought up from RPI’s defense and drove the penalty kick into the net, sending the Engineers into round two.
On Sunday, RPI faced Brandeis late in the afternoon. The Engineers came ready to fight, knowing that the Brandeis Judges had lost just two games this season. Brandeis scored first when a free kick allowed Josh Ocel to find Patrick Flahive, who finished the ball with a header past Nealon.
Although Brandeis controlled the entire game, they were unable to work past RPI’s defense, keeping the score at 1-0 Judges.
It seemed that one goal would be enough to win, until the Engineers were given an opportunity in the last minute of play. A free kicked caused Brandeis goalie Ben Woodhouse to come off his line and punch the ball away. However, it was junior Andrew Gondeck who got to the ball first, and was able to take a shot. Although it was defended, RPI was persistent—at no point ready to give up the fight. Lentine again played an important role, collecting the now twice rebounded ball and managing to tie the game.
It would take two overtimes before the match was resolved. In the 102nd minute, the Judges took a page from the Engineers’ book, recovering a rebounded free kick and bringing RPI’s season to a close.
The Engineers barely missed out on the Sweet 16, finishing with a season record of 12-5-3.