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WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – At the end of the NESCAC Tournament when Williams had lost 1-0 to Amherst Eph head coach Mike Russo was not sure his 11-6 Eph team would get an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. His sole consolation was that his strength of schedule was rated the third toughest in the nation.
Russo's booters were extended an invite to the NCAA Tournament and surprisingly ended up with hosting privileges. Downing Elms College 4-0 in the first round and Western New England University 4-1 in the second round, after trailing 1-0 at the half, Russo has his Ephs back in the NCAA Sweet 16.
"We are absolutely delighted to be able to return to the round of 16," Russo stated. "We were not sure we would be in the tournament so getting this far has been a real bonus. I would say the guys played some of the best soccer of the season over the weekend, especially the second half against Western New England when we were aided by the wind. Chris Conder and Jon Westling (man of the match vs. WNEU) were outstanding filling in for Andres Burbank-Crump and Troy Ritter. We certainly hope we can maintain the momentum through the weekend. Four excellent teams will be at Amherst and we are looking forward to the challenge."
Williams will square off against Brandeis University at Amherst College in the NCAA Sweet 16 game slated to begin at 11:00 AM on Saturday. This marks the second consecutive year that the Ephs and the Judges have met in the Round of 16 at Amherst College. Williams won last year's clash 1-0 on a goal in the 64th minute by senior Patrick Ebobisse.
Host Amherst will play St. Lawrence on Saturday at 1:30 PM.
Saturday's winners will meet on Sunday at 1:30 PM at Amherst College to decide which team will advance to the NCAA Semifinals in San Antonio, TX, December 6 and 7.
Looking ahead to Saturday Russo commented, "Brandeis is a very strong team and they are coached by Mike Coven, one of, if not the longest serving New England Division 3 coach. They possess the ball very well and have several dangerous front players. They play in an excellent conference, the UAA, and have scored 54 goals in 21 games, so they are an excellent attacking team.
Brandeis (16-4-1): The Judges have won four games in a row, including the University Athletic Association Conference Tournament. Brandeis has out scored their opponents to the tune of 54-19.
Leading the Judges' attack are junior Taylor Savonen and senior Kyle Feather. Savonen has tallied 12 goals and assisted on 4 for 28 points, while Feather has contributes 9 goals and 5 assists for 23 points.
Junior Joe Graffy is the Brandeis keeper. In 1,639.5 minutes Graffy sports a goals against average of 0.88 and his save percentage is .771.
All-time in the NCAA Tournament the Judges are 16-9-0 (.640).
Williams (13-6): The Ephs finished second to Amherst in the NESCAC Tournament and now have a 2-game win streak.
The Ephs are making their 18th appearance in the NCAA Tournament out of a possible 20 appearances and all 18 have come under Mike Russo.
All-time in the NCAA Tournament the Ephs are 34-14-9 (.675). Williams finished second in the 1993 NCAA Tourney, won the NCAA crown in 1995. In 1998, 2009, and 2012 the Ephs finished third in the NCAA Tournament.
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