NORTHFIELD, Minn.—When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, anything less than a sterling performance often results in disappointment and heartache, and the Carleton College men’s soccer team learned that lesson on Saturday.
Dan Czernicki’s 19th-minute goal was all underdog Carroll University (Wis.) would need, as the Pioneers upset No. 12 Carleton, 1-0, in the NCAA Tournament’s first round at Bell Field.
The loss snapped Carleton’s 15-match unbeaten streak, which stretched two months and saw the Knights own a 43-6 scoring advantage.
The Knights, in the opinion of Carleton head coach Bob Carlson, came out flat and the Pioneers pounced on the chance, taking command of the match from the drop. Czernicki’s goal started when Mark Gore played a diagonal ball from the left side of midfield to the top right corner of the 18-yard box. Teammate Andy Ksobiech slotted it through to Gore, who buried it into the side netting for his seventh tally of the season. The goal ended Carleton’s scoreless streak at 755:31, dating back to an Oct. 10 match at Saint Mary’s University (Minn.).
“Dan’s a great striker and he makes great runs,” Carroll head coach Rick Mobley said afterwards. “He got it on his foot and I knew it was in the back of the net. That’s what he’s in there to do – score goals.”
“It took so much emotional investment for us to get here, and I think we came out flat in the first half and you can’t come out flat in the NCAA Tournament,” Carlson said. “Every team in the NCAA Tournament is going to punish you for that, and Carroll did that.”
The Pioneers, making their fifth NCAA Championships appearance, had the better run of play for much of the first half and outshot the hosts, 11-7. The second half was a different story, though, as the Knights controlled possession and the shot tally, 7-2, but they were only able to place two of those seven chances on net.
Pioneer keeper Tomek Miaskowski was active in net, controlling the box and cutting down a number of would-be opportunities by the Knights. Carleton’s best chances all came within a seven-minute span midway through the second half, starting in the 76th minute. Carleton’s leading goal-scorer, Branden McGarrity (Fy./Glenview, Ill./Glenview South), gathering in a long throw-in, spun and fired a rocket just over the top of the cross bar in the 76th minute, followed moments later by Will Schiefeling (Fy./Eau Clarie, Wis./Regis) getting a clean look inside the box, but his attempt was right at Miakowski. Simon Ginet (Jr./Arlington, Mass.) followed suit on a great chance just inside the box six minutes later.
“The response in the second half was great,” Carlson said.
The Knights ended with a 14-13 advantage in shots, but the Pioneers owned a 5-3 spread in shots on goal. The loss ends one of the best seasons in Carleton men’s soccer history in which it matched the 2008 squad for the most wins in school history.
“The hardest thing for me is I told the team that we’re not practicing on Tuesday and we have to say goodbye to the seniors,” Carlson said. “They’ve left a legacy of hard work, a legacy of success and I really admire where they’ve taken this program. It’s been an unbelievable four years.”
“I really felt like, for the first time (in the NCAA Tournament), we took the field believing we could win,” Mobley said. “That’s a huge difference and the experience helps.”
The Pioneers advance to tomorrow’s second round to face the winner of No. 22 Gustavus Adolphus and UW-Platteville at 1:30 p.m. CST. That game’s winner moves on to next weekend’s sectional rounds at various on-campus sites.