AMHERST, MA - In a match that was tense from start to finish, the eighth-seeded Colby College Mules claimed their first NESCAC Conference Tournament Championship, defeating the Williams Ephs 4-3 via penalty kicks. In winning this match, Colby became the first eight seed ever to win the NESCAC Conference Tournament.
Williams' record is now 10-5-3 on the season, while Colby stands at 8-6-4.
This match was as entertaining as any match with zero combined goals could possibly be, as both teams were clearly aware of the stakes the entire time, and played like it. This was especially true on the defensive end, where both back lines marked their men like it was the last thing they would ever do. However, this is not to say that there were not real, dangerous chances on either side. In the 29th minute, Williams' Jules Oberg '22 blasted a shot from 25 yards out on the left side towards the bottom right corner, but the ball bounced just inches wide of the net, and with eight minutes to go in the first half, Colby's David Howarth curled a rocket from just outside the box, garnering a terrific diving save from Williams goalie Aaron Schein to preserve the scoreless tie.
Somehow, the second half was even tenser than the first, and it was based on a recurring pattern. Williams would dribble the ball deep into Colby territory, and look primed to finally dent the scoreboard. However, in a testament to the ferocious effort of Colby's defenders, these possessions ended with five outstanding saves from Mule goalie Dan Carlson, four corner kicks, three shots that were either off-target or blocked, and zero goals. The most perilous chance came in the 59th minute, when Eric Hirsch '19 tried to head a ball past Carlson, but despite running in the opposite direction, the goalie was able to barely redirect the ball away from net, keeping the match scoreless and showing why he is one of the pre-eminent goalies in Division III. The first overtime saw several decent chances from each side, including a rocket from Oberg that flew inches over the crossbar, but penalty kicks is where this match was decided.
Between the second overtime period and penalty kicks, Colby coach Ewan Seabrook subbed Carlson out for freshman Matt Johnson. It was quite a risky move, considering Carlson's performance on the day, but Johnson won Colby a penalty shootout earlier in the tournament against Tufts and is specifically excellent at this very task. He would make his coach look quite smart in just minutes. After trading misses in the first round and makes on the second, third, and fourth rounds, the two squads remained deadlocked going into the fifth and possibly final round of kicks. Colby's Ethan Fabricant, brother of Williams' Bobby Fabricant, stepped up to the ball and slotted it right past a diving Schein to extend the Mules' lead one final time. Up now for Williams would be Oberg, who had been around the net all match long, to no avail. On this final kick, Johnson guessed right, saving Oberg's shot and clinching Colby's berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Williams netminder Aaron Schein made three saves in regulation, while Colby goalie Dan Carlson, fresh off winning NESCAC Player of the Week, was tremendous once again, recording nine saves during the first 110 minutes.
While Colby secured the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Tournament, Williams will just have to wait and see if they are given an at-large bid. The NCAA DIII Men's Selection Show will air on NCAA.com at 1:00 PM on Nov. 5