Brandeis brings a balanced offensive attack and a top goalie to season's climactic weekend
For the second year in a row, the Brandeis men's soccer team has advanced to the semifinals of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) New England Division III. For the first time since 2006, the top-seeded Judges will be at home for the tournament's championship weekend.
The semifinal matchup between Brandeis and Norwich will be the first meeting between the two schools since 1969. The Cadets won five of the six meetings between the programs in the 1960s. Norwich advanced to the semifinals with a 3-1 win over UMass Boston in the quarters. Six different players registered points as the Cadets scored three goals in a span of 15 minutes.
Brandeis and Norwich had one common opponent this season, Lasell College. The Judges downed the Lasers, 3-0, on Oct. 24, while the Cadets earned a 4-0 victory on Oct. 4 and a 3-2 double-overtime triumph on Oct. 31 in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals.
Brandeis features a balanced offensive attack, as five different players have scored at least five goals this season. Lee Russo's two tallies in the quarterfinals gave him the team lead with eight goals. In four career ECAC tournament games, Russo has seven goals, including a four-goal performance in last year's quarterfinal.
Other top scorers for the Judges this season are junior Sam Ocel and rookie Tyler Savonen, who have six goals each, while senior Theo Terris and sophomore Kyle Feather have scored five times. Ocel and senior Steve Keuchkarian are tied for team-high honors with six assists, while Terris and Savonen have five helpers apiece.
Defensively, junior goalkeeper Blake Minchoff led the UAA with 10 shutouts in the regular season, with his 11th in the playoffs setting a school single-season record. Minchoff also led the league in saves (66) and save percentage (.857) and ranks second in goals against average (0.59). He is aided by a stout defense that is led by seniors David McCoy and Ari Silver, sophomore Ben Applefield and freshman Robbie Lynch.
In head coach Mike Coven's 39th season at the helm, Brandeis had its best regular season since 2000, with 12 wins. The Judges posted a 3-3-1 record in the University Athletic Association, tying for fourth place, their highest conference finish since 2002. Brandeis has recorded 11 shutouts in their 13 victories this season. The Judges are in search of back-to-back ECAC crowns and their fourth overall. Previous championship years were 1994, 2006 and 2010.
The winner of the semifinal between the Judges and Cadets will take on the winner of the second semifinal, which pits second-seeded Albertus Magnus College (16-3-1) and third-seeded Castleton State College (13-6-2) on Sunday at noon.