Courtesy of UofRAthletics.com
GRANTHAM, PA – Senior Geoffrey Rouin scored two goals in the final 20 minutes to lift the University of Rochester men’s soccer team to a thrilling 2-1 victory over #16 Amherst College in the Sweet 16 round of the 2017 NCAA Division III Soccer Tournament.
The win puts Rochester (14-3-3) through to the Elite 8 (national quarterfinals) for just the second time in school history, where the Yellowjackets will take on #9 ranked Messiah College on their home pitch. The loss ends Amherst’s season at 12-4-3.
In the 72nd minute, Rouin was finally able to break through the wall that was the Mammoth’s defense, slapping in a rebound of an Alex Di Perna low skidding shot on goal. Up to that point Rochester had handled most of the possession, but could not get their break and were trailing after Amherst had capitalized on their lone corner kick of the opening half.
Less than three minutes after the tying goal, the Yellowjackets earned a corner and Stefan Sarkovich played the ball in short to teammate Bryce Ikeda who chipped a pass into the box where Rouin leaped above the defense and headed in his second of the game and 14th of the season.
The game-winner is Rouin’s seventh of the season and ties the UR single-season school record, while his 14 goals overall are now inside the top-10 in a single-season at Rochester.
Over the final 10 minutes, the Yellowjackets turned defensive, successfully preserving the lead, while only surrendering one shot and one corner kick to Amherst during that span.
The one shot was an excellent opportunity inside the box by Luke Nguyen, whose point-blank header off a cross from the left side was stoned by senior Redd Brown in the UR net.
Amherst’s final corner of the game took place with 90 seconds on the clock, but Rochester matched up defensively with the Mammoths and did not allow anything to come of that opportunity.
It was UR who was able to generate a few solid scoring chances in the opening minutes of the contest, with the best one being by Zach Lawlor whose header off a corner kick trickled just wide at the nine-minute mark.
Amherst then struck first in the contest, converting on a corner kick, their lone one of the opening half at the 20:22 mark. Kyle Kelly was able to outjump the UR defenders in the box and finished the goal by heading in Cutler Coleman’s corner to the low right corner of the net, just out of the reach of the ‘Jacket keeper.
After the goal, the Mammoths seemed content with packing it in defensively, hoping to hold off the UR offensive attack.
The strategy worked for the remainder of the first half, but allowed the UR forwards and midfielders to easily possess the ball and generate additional scoring chances, including early in the second half when Nik Angyal and Ikeda both had strong shots which were punched away by Amherst keeper Michael Stone.
In the 57th minute, Brown caused an interesting situation by having a slick ball fall out of his hands inside the UR box, eventually picking it up again, giving the Mammoths an indirect kick from inside the 18. Fortunately for Rochester, the Yellowjacket wall held up, blocking Fikayo Ajayi’s shot away to safety.
The ‘Jackets then turned the tables, notched their two goals and hung on for the victory, the 14th of the season and most since the 2013 campaign.
Saturday’s game was a physical one and ended up being played on Messiah’s Starry Turf Field due to the torrential downpours that occurred all day on Saturday, instead of on the natural grass Shoemaker Field in Grantham. Overall, five yellow cards were issued, three to Rochester, with 23 fouls also being called, 14 of which were against Amherst.
Rochester ended up on top with 16 shots to the Mammoths 11, and a 10-6 edge in attempts on frame. Corner kicks were even at five apiece.
It will be a familiar opponent and site for Rochester in the Elite 8 tilt, as the only other time the Yellowjackets have advanced this far in the NCAA Tournament was back in 2009, when then top-ranked Messiah ousted UR by a 2-1 score in a game also played in Grantham. Sunday’s game is slated for a 1 pm kickoff with a spot in the Final Four on the line.