As the expression goes, revenge is a dish best served cold.
The theme of redemption prevailed for the Carleton Men’s Soccer team this past week, with St. Olaf and St. John’s coming to Bell Field to face the Knights.
On Saturday, freshman phenomenon Branden McGarrity notched the only goal, and despite a second half onslaught by the Oles to equalize, Carleton held on to the 1-0 lead to claim a share of the MIAC regular season championship and the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Knights took to the field again on Tuesday in the semi-finals of the MIAC playoffs against St. John’s University. The Johnnies were the only blemish for Carleton this season, losing 2-1 in overtime despite a spirited second half comeback. This time, however, the Knights proved victorious, with goals from Will Corcoran ’14 and Alex Voorhees ’13 propelling Carleton to the MIAC Playoff finals on Saturday.
After clinching a playoff spot, the Knights knew a win would not only clinch at least a share of the MIAC regular season title, but could also eliminate St. Olaf from postseason play. Last year, the Knights lost to the Oles on the final day of the season to give St. Olaf a share of the MIAC regular season championship. One week later, the second Northfield Derby of the season took place, this time for the MIAC playoff title and an automatic birth to the NCAA tournament. The Knights took the Oles to double overtime, but gave up a goal with three minutes left to lose 3-2. This left the Knights on the outside looking in for the NCAA tournament, a bitter pill for them to swallow after such a fine season.
On Saturday, Carleton looked to forget last year’s heartbreak, and came out of the gate quickly to attack the St. Olaf goal. Alex Voorhees’ eighth minute shot from 30 yards away hit the crossbar, and less than a minute later this pressure helped the Knights capture an early lead.
In the tenth minute, McGarrity intercepted an errant St. Olaf pass thirty yards away from goal. The first-year dribbled his way past three defenders and hit a well-placed finish with his left foot into the side netting from just outside the box. It was the rookie’s 19th goal of the season, putting him tenth on Carleton’s career goal-scoring list while also being the ninth-highest single-season scoring total in MIAC history.
Both sides continued to create chances throughout the half. St. Olaf came closest when Nick Lund ’15 had his header deflected over the crossbar by goalkeeper James Neher ’14, while McGarrity again burst through the Ole defense, only to have his breakaway effort saved by St. Olaf goalkeeper Harry Ullman ’13. The last chance of the half saw Keenan Smith ’15, who came in for a bloodied Neher, turn aside a shot from reigning MIAC player-of-the-year David Rosenthal ’14. The Knights kept their 1-0 lead going into halftime.
During the second half, however, St. Olaf threw everything but the kitchen sink at Neher’s goal, bombarding Carleton with wave after wave of attacking play. While only registering five shots, the Oles were in Carleton’s half for most of the second period, testing the resiliency of the Carleton defense.
Olaf’s best chance came in the 57th minute, as Lund again took aim at the Carleton goal, only to be denied by the crossbar. The Knights’ defense held strong, as Brian Rhodes ’13, Trent Elmore ’16, Neil Bartholomay ’14, and Devin Tomson-Moylan ’15 kept the St. Olaf attackers at bay, preserving the shutout and giving Carleton a share of the regular season MIAC championship. This was Carleton’s fifth MIAC championship in the last six seasons, a title run only bettered by Macalester College between 1997 and 2003, who won six titles over the span of seven seasons.
There was little time to dwell on such an achievement, as the Knights were back in action on Tuesday in the semi-finals of the MIAC playoff. Coming into the game ranked 12th in the NSCAA national poll and 16th in the D3soccer.com poll, Carleton looked to not only advance to the MIAC playoff final, but to avenge their 2-1 overtime loss at St. John’s earlier this season.
Despite a scoreless first half, the Knights held a 12-3 advantage in shots. Will Corcoran almost gave Carleton a dream start in the third minute, but his volley was shot right at goalkeeper Kevin Lebahn ’16. Lebahn came up huge again for the Johnnies in the 31st minute, as Corcoran’s toe-poke from within the six-yard box was smothered by the freshman goalie. Lebahn’s efforts kept the game knotted at zero going into halftime.
Despite Carleton’s dominance in the first half, it was St. John’s who should have taken the lead less than a minute into the second half. A defensive mix up for Carleton left Michael Coborn ’13 inside the six yard box with an entire net to shoot at, but the senior midfielder amazingly missed wide to keep the game scoreless.
The Knights kept pressing for the opening goal, and their efforts were rewarded in the 62nd minute. Good forward pressure from McGarrity and Simon Ginet ’14 led to a turnover, and Alex Voorhees hit a left-footed pass to a streaking Corcoran up the field. The junior midfielder took a touch inside past his defender into the center of the box and rifled his shot past Lebahn to give the Knights a deserved lead. It was Corcoran’s eighth goal of the season.
The Knights looked for a second goal, but Lebahn was up to the task in goal, palming aside any Carleton efforts on goal. It was going to take a special effort to get past the freshman keeper given his performance, and the Knights got their piece of magic from senior midfielder Alex Voorhees in the 81st minute. A surging run from Ben Walsh ’14 up the field found Will Schiefeling ’15 on the right hand side. The sophomore wiggled past two defenders and passed back to Walsh, who found Voorhees waiting around 30 yards from goal. The senior settled, took aim, and unleashed a swerving shot that smashed off the crossbar. The ball hit the back of a diving Lebahn and into the net, doubling Carleton’s lead. It was the senior’s sixth goal of the season, and almost a carbon copy of his goal against St. Thomas last Tuesday.
The Knights’ defense saw out the rest of the game, preserving the shutout to add another clean sheet to their tally, their eleventh of the season.
It all comes down to one game: Carleton vs Gustavus. The MIAC title and a trip to the NCAA tournament on the line. The Knights won the previous meeting this season 3-0 in St. Peter and also were victorious in the playoff game between these two sides last year at Bell Field. Both teams are ranked nationally and it promises to be a cracking encounter. The MIAC playoff final is at 1 PM on beautiful Bell Field. Come and cheer on the Knights as they seek MIAC glory!