Men’s soccer poised, capable for second championship

Senior forward Jose Novas, of Vassar’s men’s soccer team, dribbles downfield in last weekend’s contest against Rochester Institute of Technology. The Brewers came out on top, 2-1. / Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

Don’t let a tough non-conference schedule fool you. The Vassar men’s soccer team is back and better than ever, poised to make a serious run at a second straight Liberty League title.

The Brewers opened up their conference schedule last Saturday with an impressive 2-1 win against the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers on the road. Vassar was hot right out of the gate, scoring two quick goals in the first period.

In just the 13th minute, senior captain and midfielder Hayden Van Brewer buried a penalty kick to break the ice and put the Brewers up 1-0. The score marked Van Brewer’s fourth goal of the season, tying him with reigning Liberty League (LL) Rookie of the Year Mattie Mrlik for most goals on the team.

Although Van Brewer has always been a key component of the Brewer offense over his four years, this season marks the first time he has ever scored. Van Brewer’s scoring production has been an interesting switch-up in gameplan for head coach Andy Jennings and his team.

“It’s been really exciting to score some goals this year,” said Van Brewer. “One of the best things about our team is our offensive flexibility. We don’t care who scores, we just want to put the ball in the net as many times as we can.”

14 minutes after Van Brewer’s penalty kick, Vassar demonstrated their unselfishness with a brilliant string of passes that resulted in their second goal. Senior Tanner Sands found senior Reid Smith, who then gave an extra touch to senior Jose Novas. Off of Smith’s pass, Novas was able to score near the corner of the goal.

The Brewers played the Tigers evenly throughout the rest of the match, with RIT tacking on a late free-kick goal in the 80th minute to bring the score to its final score of 2-1. The win proves that despite going a mediocre 3-3-1 in non-conference play, the Brewers are still set to be competitive in the LL.

“The team has played well so far this year. We’ve had a tough schedule so far so our record doesn’t look as good as it did last year, but I think the team performed well and got off to a nice start in the LL,” said junior defender Tim Collins. “The defense has been solid, not per- fect, and [there are] still a lot of things we want to work on but we’re doing pretty well so far.”

A staple on defense for the Brewers has been sophomore Will Marment. The RIT match-up marked Marment’s fifth start in the cage, as he tallied an impressive seven saves in his full 90 minutes of play.

Vassar has also been able to integrate unique set-pieces that have allowed them to utilize their defenders on the offensive side of the ball. As a result, sophomore defender Henrik Olsson has two goals and three assists on the season, including a game-winner against New Paltz on Sept. 13.

“Scoring the game-winner was an incredible feeling,” said Olsson. “Especially after being down 2-0 at the half, it made the goal even more special. Of course, there [were] still more than 10 minutes to play so there was no room for complacency, but it was definitely an exciting moment for me and everyone on the team.”

Olsson added that he feels confident in Coach Jenning’s game plan to use outside backs in scoring positions.

“It’s a really fulfilling position as an outside back since I am allowed to push forward a lot of the times and be an attacking option,” said Ols- son. “A lot of chances will come from set-pieces, which was one of our strongest assets last season. Andy always encourages the outside backs to support the midfielders and forwards when we attack as long as we are disciplined on transitioning to defense.”

Immediately following Olsson’s heroics in the New Paltz game, the Brewers made a statement at home by tying fifth-ranked SUNY Oneonta, 1-1.

From the start, O-State’s standout striker Roberto Ventura asserted his dominance, making it clear that the Brewers had a tough matchup ahead of them. A shifty and speedy forward, Ventura eluded the Vassar defense and found the back of the net in just the 10th minute.

“Tough early goal, but we shut them down after that,” said Collins. “This was huge, especially since their striker Ventura was one of the best players I’ve personally played against in college.”

With Collins and the other backs showing resiliency on defense, the Brewers were able to stay in the match and play the talented Red Dragons evenly for the rest of the first period. In the opening of the second period, a beautiful sliding cross from Novas found sophomore Toby Stansell right in front of the net, who easily finished the play to tie the match up 1-1.

Following Stansell’s score, the Brewers outpaced Oneonta in scoring opportunities. In the first overtime, Smith had open space for a straightaway shot right outside of the box, but left the ball high and wide off a strong kick. With 20 seconds left in the second and final overtime, Vassar was able to draw a yellow card on O-State’s Jorge Hernandez, setting up a last-ditch free kick from an excellent position.

With the pressure on, Van Brewer lofted a beautiful ball into the final third of the field. After a couple of headers, the ball was finally cleared away to end the match in a tie.

Van Brewer noted that the team has done an excellent job thus far in creating scoring opportunities with corners and free kicks, and will continue to look to find ways to better finish plays.

“We’re a team that loves set-pieces. When we pressure teams to kick the ball out of bounds, we get excited,” said Van Brewer. “We believe that we’re going to score every time we get those opportunities. We have so many players that are good at attacking the ball in the air: Tyler Gilmore, Mattie Mrlik and Henrik Olsson are some of the most dangerous headers in the Liberty League.”

With a tie against a nationally ranked opponent under their belt, Van Brewer and his Brewers believe they will be a force to be reckoned with.

“After our match against Oneonta, I think they need to take us very seriously,” said Van Brewer. “We 100% believe that we could win the Liberty League. We’ve been itching to take on our Liberty League rivals again.”

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