Tim Wills heads home the eventual game-winning goal in the 15th minute in Carleton's 1-0 win over Gustavus Adolphus in the MIAC Playoff semifinals at Bell Field. (photo by Tim Dahlin)
NORTHFIELD, Minn. —Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Tim Wills (Sr./Portland, Ore./Central Catholic), that is.
Wills tallied perhaps the prettiest goal of the year, heading home a well-placed cross from Will Corcoran (So./Mahtomedi, Minn.) in the 15th minute and host Carleton College gutted out a 1-0 win over No. 10 Gustavus Adolphus College in the MIAC Playoffs at Bell Field.
The Knights (12-5-2) advance to Saturday’s 1 p.m. MIAC Playoff Final against rival St. Olaf College, 2-1 victors over fourth-seeded Augsburg College. The Knights and Oles shared the MIAC’s regular-season title, with St. Olaf grabbing a 3-1 win over the Knights this past Saturday.
Carleton dominated the opening 15 minutes of play, and after a near goal off a Neil Bartholomay (So./St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) header from a corner kick, Nathan Park (Fy./Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) played a great through ball to a streaking Corcoran. The speedy outside midfielder took the ball up the left sideline, serving it on target and Wills heading it home for his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
“We knew we could get around them on the outside,” Wills said. “I knew Will was going to cross it so I stepped back away from their defenders because they were all facing the ball. He crossed it right to my head and I headed it right over the goalie’s hands—he didn’t have time to react.”
The Gusties, who had entered the match as the conference’s top goal-scoring side, dominated possession in the final 45 minutes but had nothing to show for it. Their best chance came in the final 10 minutes of the match when Kyle Sadler’s blast off a give-and-go from the top of the box was parried away by a leaping James Nehrer (So./Mahtomedi, Minn.). There was one anxious moment for Nehrer when he came off his line to cut down a free kick into the penalty box and ran into traffic, leaving the goal free for a few seconds, but the Knights were able to clear the ball before the Gusties controlled.
It was the Knights, effectively using the counter attack and the speed of Corcoran, who had the more dangerous chances. In the 66th minute Ryan Cammarota (Sr./Neenah, Wis.) bent a free kick from just outside the penalty box around the wall, looking for an on-rushing attacker. Gustie keeper Brett Ylonen came well off his line to cut down the pass but didn’t cleanly claim the ball, leaving it loose in the box and his line unattended. Miles Silbert (Sr./St. Louis Park, Minn.) tried to get off a shot, but his attempt was snuffed by sprawling Ylonen. The home team’s best second-half chance came in the 74th minute when Wills was played in by Ryan Cammarota, and with Ylonen off his line, Wills turned the corner on an open net. He slipped as he pivoted at the corner of the 6-yard box, and instead laid it off to a wide open Ryan Cammarota, but his volley went up and over the cross bar.
Gustavus owned a 15-8 spread in shots, but managed only to place four of those attempts on goal, as Nehrer notched his third shutout of the season for the win.
“For me, the first 15 minutes of the match we were playing our best soccer of the season,” Carleton head coach Bob Carlson said. “It was a little frustrating because we weren’t getting guys into the box and we needed to get something out of our possessions. Tim’s goal was probably the best goal of the season but we’re going to need more of that on Saturday.”
The Gusties (14-2-3), who had a 12-match unbeaten string snapped with the loss, now must await the NCAA Division III men’s soccer committee’s decision on whether or not they’ll receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships on Monday.
For the Knights, one of their best matches of the season was a welcome sight for Carlson.
“We really wanted to regroup [after Saturday’s loss to St. Olaf],” he said. “The St. Olaf game was frustrating for us—we won the conference and no one can take that away from us. That gave us a little bit of energy coming into this match. The guys executed the game plan effectively today and it came down to grit, fight and determination and we’re going to need more of that Saturday against St. Olaf.“
The winner of Saturday’s match between the two Northfield colleges receives the MIAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, while the loser must hope for an at-large bid to the national tournament. This marks Carleton’s third MIAC Playoff title-game appearance in the last four seasons—the Knights are 0-1-1 in their previous two trips to the championship match, having played to a 1-1 draw with Augsburg in 2008 (and advancing on penalty kicks), and falling to Macalester in 2009.
“They have three really skilled offensive players,” Wills said of St. Olaf. “We know they’re going to play the long ball so we have to get our clearances and win those second balls. On offense, hopefully we can get a better rhythm than we did last week.”
Parking advisory for Saturday's match (Updated Nov. 3):
St. Olaf is hosting the Minnesota state high school cross country meet on Saturday. Only vehicles displaying handicapped parking passes will be allowed to park near Rolf Mellby Soccer Field. MIAC Soccer/Cross Country spectator parking will be available at four remote parking lots at the southeast end of the St. Olaf campus. Large red signs will direct spectators to these lots. Shuttle service to and from campus will be provided from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The pick-up and drop-off points will be posted with large red “Bus Stop” signs. Allow 20 minutes in your travel plans to be shuttled from the spectator lots to a drop off point 400 yards from Rolf Mellby Soccer Field.