The Carleton Men’s Soccer team, ranked 13th in the NSCAA national poll and 17th in the D3soccer.com poll, took a giant step this week in reclaiming their regular season MIAC championship with two gigantic conference victories: a 2-0 victory over Bethel University on Saturday before routing St. Thomas by a 4-0 margin on Tuesday.
These two triumphs extend Carleton’s unbeaten streak to 12 matches, having outscored their opponents by a 40-6 margin over the course of that run. Furthermore, the 15 victories is tied with the 2009 squad for the second-highest win total in team history, trailing the 2008 Men’s soccer team, who amassed 17 wins on their famous run to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2008 NCAA Championships.
With Bethel coming to Bell Field on Saturday, the Knights were looking to settle old scores from last season. The Royals snuck a 1-0 victory away from the Knights and stopped Carleton from winning the regular season MIAC championship outright, eventually sharing the title with neighbors St. Olaf.
The Knights looked to settle the score this year, and they only needed 7:28 to get the game’s opening tally. A long, looping cross from Derek Funk ’13 found Will Corcoran ’14 at the back post, and the midfielder headed the ball back across the six yard box to Simon Ginet ’14. Ginet deftly flicked his header past the Bethel goalkeeper to score his 11th goal of the season.
Carleton maintained their offensive dominance throughout the entire match, putting up 16 shots compared to Bethel’s three. Despite their numerical advantage in shots, the Knights had to wait until the 89:49 mark to secure the win with a second goal. Ginet played a slicing ball from one side of the field to a streaking Corcoran, who dribbled around the onrushing goalkeeper and waited until the right moment to cooly slot his finish into the back of the net. On the other end, James Neher ’14 and the Knights’ defense stifled the Bethel offense en route to another shutout--the team’s eighth of the season.
Coming into Tuesday’s contest, the Knights and Tommies were tied at second in the MIAC, with both sides at 19 points. A win for either side would put them level on points with Gustavus Adolphus at 22 points going into the final round of MIAC fixtures this Saturday. Led by striker Nick Rapisarda ’14, the Tommies have been a dynamic offensive force this season, and looked to continue that form into Tuesday’s game.
The first twenty minutes were highly contested, but as the Knights slowly became more composed during the course of the half, the opportunities to take the lead presented themselves. In the 41st minute, the Knights seized their chance. Following a great piece of individual effort by Nathan Park ’15, who worked incredibly hard to win the ball back from a Tommies defender, Carleton had a corner kick.
Park’s outswinging cross evaded the rushing Carleton attackers, but Neil Bartholomay ’14 was able to retrieve the ball and send a second cross back into the box. The defender’s looping pass found Branden McGarrity ’16, who had time to smash a volley past the Tommies goalie to give the Knights an invaluable lead going into halftime.
Unlike the cagey start of the first half, the Knights came out flying in the second half, looking to add a second goal. The pressure paid off quickly, as Carleton doubled the lead four minutes after the restart. Ben Walsh ’14 was able to toe-poke the ball away from a Tommies defender to Ginet, who played the ball back to captain Alex Voorhees ’13. 30 yards away from goal,
Voorhees had enough time to settle and take aim, and unleash a rocket on goal. The senior’s effort rattled against the crossbar, but hit the extended arm of the St. Thomas goalkeeper, who redirected the shot into the back of the net. It was Voorhees’ fifth goal of the season, with the senior midfielder also registering long-range, goal-of-the-season type efforts against Gustavus Adolphus and Northwestern College earlier this year.
The nature of the game changed after the second goal and the floodgates began to open for the Knights offensively. Six minutes after Voorhees’ wonderstrike, the Knights registered yet another goal from a set piece. After Corcoran was fouled, Voorhees caught the Tommies’ defense napping and played Corcoran on the left side. The junior midfielder’s cross went to the back post, where Bartholomay headed the ball back across the box to Ginet, whose diving header found the net to give Carleton an amazing three goal lead. It was Bartholomay’s second assist of the game, and the tally was Ginet’s 12th of the season, fifth highest on the single-season goal scoring list.
Voorhees was once again involved in the build up to the Knights’ fourth goal. A short corner by Funk was played to Voorhees, and the senior midfielder hit a driven ball into the box. Devin Tomson Moylan ’15 expertly delayed his run into the box and rose highest to power home a header with full force to put the Knights in dreamland.
The closest St. Thomas came to scoring was in the 79th minute, as they were awarded a penalty kick. The effort sailed towards the banks of the Canon River, well away from Neher’s goal. A flurry of substitutions for the Knights did not lead to a drop off in focus, as the they kept the Tommies off the scoreboard to ensure the team’s fourth consecutive shutout and their ninth of the season.
Later on Tuesday night, the Knights learned that they had finally clinched a playoff spot after Hamline University tied with St. John’s University.
The Knights have one final conference fixture in the regular season: the Northfield Derby. St. Olaf comes to Bell Field in a game with many implications.
First, Carleton is looking for revenge after last year’s fixtures against the Oles, as St. Olaf beat the Knights on the final day to become co-champions with their neighbors, while a victory in the MIAC playoff final meant that the Oles clinched an automatic berth into the NCAA Championship.
Meanwhile, the Knights were unjustly excluded from the postseason tournament. Secondly, and more pertinent to this season, a win for Carleton would automatically give the Knights home-field advantage throughout the MIAC playoffs. A win for Carleton would also potentially eliminate the Oles from post-season play depending on results throughout the conference, so there is much at stake in the final round of fixtures.
Sunday’s match is at 1 PM at lovely Bell Field, so come watch nationally-ranked Carleton Men’s soccer on their quest to clinch another MIAC championship!