TROY, NY -- The lights of ECAV Stadium shone down on a late-night thriller as the Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute men's soccer team (10-4-1) edged Williams College (8-4-0) in overtime on Tuesday night. Sophomore Vince Bennett tallied a brace, including the game-winning goal, to lift the Engineers to a 3-2 victory over the Ephs.
The game-winning goal came in just the fourth minute of the overtime period, when the Ephs' back-line attempted to clear a ball out of danger that had been floated into the box, but the clearance was blocked by junior Tim Terrezza, who was then able to collect the deflection and cross the ball into the penalty area from the right wing. Bennett made no mistake completing his brace when he finished past Morrell to end the game.
After the game, Ephs head-coach Mike Russo was disappointed with the result: "I don't think we deserved to win, but I was hoping for a tie. We were a little bit shaky at the back at times, but RPI is a good team and deserved the victory."
The game was tied at halftime after a largely uneventful first half, even though a goal was scored by each side.
The first goal came inside nine minutes, when a long ball was floated to the right wing of the Engineers' attacking-third. Engineer sophomore Esmir Hadzic out-jumped his defender to win the header, which he nodded down to a fellow Engineer, senior Alex Dotseth, who curled a beautiful left-footed shot around senior Eph keeper Peter Morrell to open up the scoring.
It took a while for the Ephs to really pick up their offensive game, but they managed to do so in the dying minutes of the first half.
Just inside seven minutes remaining before halftime, the Ephs found their equalizer through freshman and Troy-native Brandon Dory. Senior User Kushaina won a fifty-fifty ball in the midfield, before slipping a beautiful pass to Jonathan Westling in the heart of the Engineer defense. Westling drove toward the penalty area before putting junior Chris Conder through on the left wing. Conder ollected, raced to the touchline, and curled a cross onto the near-post, precisely where Dory's head was waiting to redirect the ball into the back of the net.
It seemed that the Ephs had received a wake-up call at halftime, as they came out in the second-half firing on all cylinders. With a majority of both possession and chances, it was only a matter of time before the Ephs grabbed a second goal.
That second goal came seventeen minutes into the second half by way of senior Matt Kastner, fresh off winning NESCAC Player of the Week for his heroics over the weekend against Tufts. Sophomore Mohammed Rashid found himself just outside the right flank of the Engineer penalty area, where he collected a long pass out of the midfield. He calmly made an inch-perfect diagonal pass through the Engineer back-line to a knifing Kastner who took a simple touch to put the ball into the right corner of the net, catapulting the Ephs into the lead.
The lead did not last long however, as it took a mere five minutes for the Engineers to find an equalizer through Bennett on their only chance of the second-half. Sophomore Nathaniel Gunderson came out of a tough challenge on the left wing with the ball and crossed the ball to Bennett who was all by himself at the penalty spot. Bennett cooly settled the ball, took a touch to his right, and smashed the ball into the upper-right corner of the goal.
Unfazed by the equalizer, the Ephs continued to dominate the possession and chances in the remaining part of the second half.
It looked as if the Ephs might grab a last-minute winner before overtime. Junior Matt Muralles took a free kick from just inside midfield, lobbing the ball into the penalty area. There were several breathless moments where the ball rolled, untouched, through the box, but no Eph was able to get on the end of it before it rolled out for a goal-kick.
The overtime period arrived, and the Engineers came out with a renewed vigor for a game-winner, which they found on just their third chance of the period through Bennett.
After the game Coach Russo took a positive view moving forward: "We have to bounce back. We have to win our last two NESCAC games, and we will finish second. So that's our short-term goal at the moment: we recover and get ready for the game on Saturday."
The Ephs outshot the Engineers by a margin of 16 to 9, but the Engineers had 6 shots on goal to the Ephs' 5. Each goalie made three saves, and Williams had 16 fouls to RPI's 7.
The Ephs next play on Saturday at home against Bates at 1 PM.