A historic weekend for Brandeis Athletics
Both the men's and women's soccer teams pulled off dramatic upsets to advance to the NCAA Division III soccer Final Four
Thanks to a weekend full of dramatic moments, the Brandeis women's and men's soccer teams made history: the women reached the NCAA Division III tournament Final Four for the first time ever, while the men's win put them in the Final Four for the first time since 1984.
For the men's team, the drama unfolded on Saturday at Amherst College, where the Judges took the host and second-ranked Amherst into overtime tied at 1-1. Thanks to junior goalkeeper Ben Woodhouse, who made a career-high 10 saves in 110 minutes of regulation and golden-goal overtime, the game reached penalty kicks, where Woodhouse came up even bigger, saving three of the hosts’ four attempts. When senior Zach Vieira scored in the fourth round to give the Judges a 3-1 shootout win, the Judges moved on to the Elite Eight for the second time in three years.
On Sunday, Head Coach Mike Coven’s squad jumped ahead of Rutgers University-Newark thanks to senior reserve Mike Lynch. After coming on in the 21st minute, Lynch scored twice in a span of 59 seconds to give the Judges a 2-0 lead midway through the first half. The Scarlet Raiders got one back in the late moments of the first half, to make it 2-1.
After the intermission, Brandeis senior Josh Ocel assisted on what proved to be the game-winning goal and scored an insurance goal two minutes later to put Brandeis ahead, 4-1. Rutgers-Newark tallied a penalty kick in the 81st minute to make the final 4-2, but the Judges held them at bay to send Brandeis to its fourth Final Four in Coven’s 44-year tenure.
Meanwhile on the Judges’ home pitch in Waltham, the 23rd ranked women met 15th ranked McDaniel College in the Sweet 16 on Saturday. The match was scoreless until the 87th minute, when junior Samantha Schwartz slammed home a rebound off a shot by fellow junior Haliana Burhans, giving the Judges a 1-0 win. The goal was Schwartz’s third of the tournament, but not her last.
Sunday’s match was a daunting task as the Judges’ faced top-ranked and undefeated William Smith. The Herons were 21-0 and had outscored their opponents 79-4 entering the weekend. After defeating Amherst 4-2 in the previous round, William Smith went up 2-0 on Brandeis with goals in the 21st and 74th minutes.
That’s when the comeback started. Brandeis senior Lea McDaniel scored just 32 seconds after the visitors’ second goal to get within 2-1 on an assist from Schwartz. As the clock ticked under 10 minutes to go in regulation, the Judges’ offense exploded. Schwartz scored at the 81:16 mark on a turnaround blast. Just 40 seconds after that, Senior Julia McDermott poked home the rebound off a free kick by classmate Jessica Morana to put William Smith behind for only the second time all season.
But the lead wouldn’t hold. As the final 10 seconds in the game counted down, the pressure by William Smith’s offense broke through, and the Herons punched home an equalizer with just 3.7 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
The Judges proved to be resilient again, winning the game 1 minute and 43 seconds into golden goal overtime when senior back Michaela Friedman sent a free kick into the box. Schwartz put a shot on goal that was saved, but Morana was there to knock home the rebound and send the home team fans home happy. The win lifted 37-year Head Coach Denise Dallamora to her first-ever Final Four and tied the school’s single-season record for wins in the process.
Brandeis becomes just the ninth program in Division III history to send both their men’s and women’s soccer teams to the Final Four in the same season, and the first since 2006 to do it from a program other than powerhouse Messiah College.
Both teams will head to Salem, Virginia to compete in the semifinals on Dec. 2. The women’s team faces Washington University while the men's team plays Calvin College.