Conn wants history to repeat itself
Camels want to follow up program’s first NCAA win with another one today
New London — The magnitude of the result sunk in during the postgame celebration.
The Connecticut College men's soccer team won the program's first NCAA Division III tournament game with a convincing 4-0 shutout of Thomas College on Saturday.
And the Camels, first time NCAA tournament hosts, did it before an enthusiastic home crowd of approximately 600 fans at a cool, windy Freeman Field.
"Obviously, it's a big moment for the program," junior Freddy Stokes said. "We've never done this before. We've never won an NCAA game. To be able to do that is pretty awesome."
The moment certainly wasn't too big for the Camels, who dominated possession from the start and held a 25-2 edge in shots. Three different players, including junior reserve Manny Balbontin, who scored the last two goals to ice the win, found the back of the net for the Camels. Goalie AJ Marcucci needed to stop only two shots to earn the shutout.
A chance to make program history served as added motivation beyond post-season glory.
"We talked about it before the game and we told the guys that they deserved to make history," assistant coach Reuben Burk said. "They just needed to go out and execute. They're all buzzing because they know the significance of it."
Burk and fellow assistant Peter Carli were in charge Saturday because head coach Kenny Murphy was out of town attending his daughter's wedding. Murphy kept in contact by cell phone.
With their inspired team play, the Camels heeded Murphy's advice.
"Murph is emotionally important to our team and he dedicates a lot of time and effort to the program," Stokes said. "But, as he says, it's our team, it's not his team. I think we showed that today."
Murphy will be back on the sideline today when Conn (132-2) plays Ramapo (N.J.) College (16-3-2), a 2-0 winner over Springfield, at 1 p.m. in the second round. The final margin of victory Saturday was a bit deceiving. The Camels led by just one goal at halftime despite buzzing all around the Thomas goal. They could convert only one of 11 shots, as sophomore Liam Noonan took a pass from senior Ben Manoogian and scored from the doorstep about 15 minutes into the game.
Frustration built up on both sides early in the second half. The Camels continued to fail to convert golden scoring opportunities while the Terriers (14-5-1) struggled just to cross midfield at times.
"The game was a little bit frustrating in the sense it took us a long time to get the second one," Burk said. "Credit to the guys who kept persevering and kept taking the game to them." The second goal came from an unlikely source. Stokes, a defender, pushed forward into the attack and unleashed a laser from about 35 yards out that glanced off goalie Jonathan Dutka's raised hands and went in for a 2-0 edge at the 70:38 mark.
After scoring his first collegiate goal, Stokes ran over to the bench to celebrate with his teammates.
"I missed all of last year with a torn ACL, so that was a big moment for me to come back and get the first one like that," Stokes said. "I don't score very often, but it's always fun, especially on this stage." The Camels took off from there. About two minutes later, Balbontin make a nifty move at the top of the box to create some space and hit a well-placed shot into the far corner. He added another goal just over 12 minutes later.
The four-goal win represented the largest margin of victory for the Camels since a 5-0 season-opening win versus Mitchell College. The Camels aren't satisfied with entering the program record books. They want to add to their post-season win total. They had gone 0-2 in their previous two NCAA trips (1995, 2017).
"It's a very focused, motivated group," Burk said. "The biggest thing we have to concentrate on is tactics and really implementing our style. Motivation is not an issue." firstname.lastname@example.org
Connecticut College’s Justin Miranda (26) and Thomas College’s Robert Ochan go up for the ball during Saturday’s NCAA Division III first-round match at Freeman Field. The Camels rolled to a 4-0 victory and will play Ramapo (N.J.) in Sunday’s second round.
Connecticut College’s MT Tshuma (9) tangles with Thomas College goalie Jonathan Dutka during Saturday’s NCAA Division III men’s soccer tournament first-round game at Freeman Field. The Camels won 4-0 and will host Ramapo (N.J.) in today’s second round at 1 p.m.