Engineers fall short in league semifinals

After a shaky start to the season, late wins take RPI to the semifinals where they lose to Vassar

IN THIS FILE PHOTO, FRESHMAN BRANDON PIROG CLEARS the ball away from Rensselaer’s goal.

Last Wednesday, November 2, men’s soccer travelled to Poughkeepsie, NY to face off against Vassar College in the Liberty League Semifinals. Going into the game, the Brewers were at 12–3–2, while the Engineers were at 8–6–4 for the season. Ultimately, RPI was upended 1–3, sending Vassar to the Liberty League Finals.

The Brewers wasted no time getting on the offensive. In the first minute of play, Vassar midfielder Stephen Jennings took a shot at freshman goalie Matt LaBranche. The shot went wide, but was only the start of the six shots that would rain down on the Engineers’ defense in the next few minutes.

Vassar was the first to score when midfielder Hayden Van Brewer crossed the ball into the box. Forward Mattie Mrlik was perfectly in position, using his head to redirect the shot into the goal.

The second goal of the game was again courtesy of Mrlik. Forward Jose Novas saw Mrlik waiting at the six-yard box and quickly made the pass. All Mrlik had to do was turn and put a low shot past LaBranche.

The Engineers’ back line had a momentary lapse of concentration 36 minutes in, but it was enough for the Brewers. In that moment, Mrlik became the superstar of the game, picking up the ball and scoring a hat trick.

At the end of the first half, Vassar outshot the Engineers 13–1, evident from the 3–0 score.

Early on in the second half, Rensselaer put one up on the board. Senior midfielder Devon Baughen played a through ball to freshman midfielder Austin Betterly, who took only one touch before ripping a shot into the net.

RPI worked for shots on goal, but were continuously stopped by Vassar’s defense. Meanwhile, Vassar’s offense continued to work like they had in the first half, getting off 12 shots in the half, although none of them proved fruitful. With little left in the tank, the Engineer’s season concluded with a 3–1 loss.

Vassar went on to defeat Skidmore College 3–2 last Saturday to claim the Liberty League Championship.