NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- After waiting an extra 24 hours due to poor field conditions, the Carleton College men’s soccer team avenged its loss to rival St. Olaf College five days prior with a thrilling 1-0 triumph in the semifinals of the MIAC Playoffs. Branden McGarrity’s (So./Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) goal in the 52nd minute proved to be the game winner, sending the Knights into the conference tournament championship match.
Despite the cold temperatures and less-than-ideal conditions on the pitch, Carleton (14-2-3) and St. Olaf (14-4-1) both managed to get off to a quick start.
Carleton goalkeeper James Neher (Sr./Mahtomedi, Minn./Mahtomedi) was tested early by the home team when David Rosenthal managed to split the Knight defense just 90 seconds in the contest, blasting a shot that sailed just off frame. Neher also registered a huge save in the eighth minute as he barely kept a Kevin Skrip shot from sneaking over the goal line.
St. Olaf tested Neher once again in the 18th minute, forcing the Knights’ goalie to make a nice diving interception of a cross intended for an open Ole attacker. But after dodging those early close calls, the offensive momentum quickly swung back in the direction of the Knights, who had the majority of the truly dangerous opportunities in the first half.
Carleton really ratcheted up the energy in the 22nd minute when Neil Bartholomay (Sr./St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) headed a ball to Devin Tomson-Moylan (Jr./St. Paul, Minn./Central), who flicked the ball on towards the top of the goal frame. It seemed like that touch might give the Knights the lead, but the outstretched arm of Olaf keeper Ben Braman punched Tomson-Moylan’s header just over the crossbar to preserve the scoreless tie.
The Knights tested Braman once again when leading goal scorer McGarrity got behind the Ole backline and fired a 12-yard rocket on goal in the 32nd minute . A terrific save from Braman pushed the ball beyond the frame of the net and out of bounds for a corner kick. Although Will Corcoran’s (Sr./Mahtomedi, Minn./Mahtomedi) strike on the corner eventually led to another great chance for the Knights, the scoreboard remained blank after Braman made yet another steller stop on a rip from Bartholomay inside the 18-yard box.
Although the Knights generated quite a few solid opportunities over the opening 45, the match remained scoreless, following the same script from Saturday’s road loss for Carleton.
The second period was much more evenly matched and defensive oriented than the first. Both squads generated just four shots over the half, and the defensive pressure seemed to pick up on both ends. However, despite the limited opportunities, it was the second half that featured this playoff match’s lone and deciding goal. As he has done throughout this season, McGarrity seemed to create a goal out of thin air. Standing on ball at the top-left of the penalty box, but with his back to the goal and a defender marking him, it looked as if McGarrity had nowhere to go. The sophomore forward, however, created some space by quickly whipping to his left, centering the ball on his right foot, and suddenly firing a laser towards the St. Olaf goal. This one was beyond the outstretched arms of Braman and inside the left post, giving Carleton a 1-0 lead in the 52nd minute of play.
St. Olaf threatened to knot things up down the stretch, but the Carleton defensive line of Kurt Heise (So./ Deerfield, Mass./Deerfield), Bartholomay, Tomson-Moylan, and Riley Phelps (Fy./Bowling Green, Ky./Bowling Green) held up against the Ole attack down the stretch. Perhaps the home team’s best chance came in the 84th minute when a yellow-card for Heise led to a dangerous set-piece from just outside the edge of the box for St. Olaf. Although the free-kick was struck well, Bartholomay found his way in front of the ball and played it out to safety. Carleton successfully played enough keep-away over the closing minutes of the match to hold on for a thrilling 1-0 victory.
“I thought our backline was fantastic in really, really tough conditions against really, really talented attacking players,” said Carleton head coach Bob Carlson. “Hats off Neil (Bartholomay). He’s fierce and composed back there.”
Carleton had not won on St. Olaf’s Rolf Mellby Field since clinching the 2007 MIAC regular-season title on the Oles’ home field. This was also the Knights’ first postseason victory over their cross-town rivals in three tries.
With the victory, the Knights advance to the MIAC Playoff finals for the third consecutive season and will host fourth-seeded Saint John’s University at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9. Live video and live stats will be provided on Knights Online.