Final Four Times Two: Men’s and Women’s Soccer Make It to NCAA Semifinals

Haliana Burhans '18 celebrates her goal at the NCAA Final Four.
Norman Cohen '20
Haliana Burhans '18 celebrates her goal at the NCAA Final Four.

Longtime soccer coach Mike Coven calls Brandeis “a big soccer school.”

It’s hard to argue with him after Coven’s men’s team and Denise Dallamora’s women’s squad each defied expectations to advance in early December to the NCAA Division III Final Four competition, held at Roanoke College, in Salem, Virginia.

Although both teams lost in the national semifinals — the men fell to Calvin College 1-0, and the women dropped a 2-1 match to eventual champion Washington University in St. Louis — the final scores could not dull the glow of achievement. Brandeis became just the ninth Division III school to send two teams to the Final Four in the same season. The Brandeis men hadn’t been to the Final Four in 32 years; the women were making their first appearance.

Coven, one of the winningest coaches in Division III history, who retired from his post at the end of December, took note of all the excitement. “We had fans out there — alumni, student body, administrators — and we had tremendous support,” he said.

In mid-October, it seemed highly unlikely that Coven’s 44th Brandeis team would reach the Final Four. On Oct. 14, a Judges’ loss to the University of Chicago dropped the team to a 5-4-3 record. Two days later, Brandeis edged University Athletic Association rival WashU 2-1, starting a five-game winning streak that carried the Judges into the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season.

Against Calvin, goalkeeper Ben Woodhouse ’18 helped keep the Judges in the game, making four saves and several other standout plays coming off his line. Calvin’s Micah Beard scored the lone goal following a scrum off a free kick in the 74th minute.

The women’s journey to Virginia was nearly as improbable. The Judges opened the season with a 12-0-1 record before hitting a streak in which they won just once in six games. Their trip to the NCAAs was their fourth in five years.

In the Final Four match with WashU, Haliana Burhans ’18 put Brandeis on the scoreboard with her fourth goal of the season. It was the first goal allowed by the Bears in nearly two months.

“I am so proud of this team,” said Dallamora, who concluded her 37th year as coach, after the game. “They played hard enough to win, and I’m sad because they didn’t. But I’m really proud of them.”

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