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Fatigued Ephs Battle Back from the Brink to Win Semifinal Thriller 2-1
November 9, 2002
With three seconds remaining in their season, junior Ryan Olsen's goal threw the weary Williams College men's soccer team (13-3) the lifeline it needed to set the stage for a thrilling 2-1 win for the Ephmen over the Middlebury Panthers (9-4-3) in the semifinal round of the NESCAC Tournament. Junior Khari Stephenson sent home the game-winner for Williams in the fourth minute of the first and only overtime period; with the victory, Williams has earned the right to defend its title in the NESCAC Championship game against Amherst at noon tomorrow.

"Ryan's goal with three seconds left was the capper on a most exhilarating day," Williams Head Coach Mike Russo said. "I'm emotionally drained right now -- it was a very gratifying win."

The game remained scoreless through the first half though the smart money had to have been on Middlebury beginning in the 41st minute when the Ephmen found themselves a man down following the ejection of junior Romel Wallen. Wallen's ejection, however, seemed to make the victory all the more gratifying for Russo: "A lot of teams might have folded at that point," he said afterward. "I can't say how proud I am of our guys for bearing down and toughing it out after that."

If the Ephs were the underdogs after the 41st minute they were left for dead when the Panthers broke the ice on the scoring in the 86th minute of play. Kyle Dezotell made it a 1-0 Panther advantage with but three and a half minutes remaining, and with the Ephs reeling from the fatigue induced by playing a man down for 45 minutes, an Eph triumph seemed decidedly unlikely.

With Middlebury players preparing to charge the field and embrace their teammates as the clock reported under 10 seconds of soccer remaining in regulation, goalkeeper Nick Armington '06 booted a ball from the half into the middle of the Panther 18-yard box. Armington's 'Hail Mary' was met with a scramble 19 players deep in front of the Middlebury goal, but Lady Fate directed the ball to Olsen's foot and the junior pushed the ball into the right side of the net to send the game into OT.

With the momentum in their favor, the Ephs came out swinging to start the overtime period and finally found the goal they were looking for in the 94th minute of play. Senior Perry Kalmus dished the ball off to senior Alex Blake who crossed the ball into the box; Blake's pass found Stephenson laying in wait from seven yards out and the junior collected the ball and hammered it into the Panther goal to make the Ephs Finals-bound.

Williams will take to the field tomorrow against a tough Amherst team that won its semifinal contest 2-1 over top-seeded Tournament host Bowdoin. The Jeffs beat the Ephs 3-0 on their home field in the teams' only meeting of the season.

"We are ready to play Amherst tomorrow," Russo said. "We are looking forward to having the opportunity to redeem ourselves."

Scoring:

1. Middlebury (85:37) - Dezotell
2. Williams (89:57) - Olsen
3. Williams (93:26) - Stephenson from Blake

Shots: Williams - 19; Middlebury - 19
Saves: Williams - 7; Middlebury - 6
Corner Kicks: Williams - 5; Middlebury - 7