AMHERST, Mass. An inch further left and the St. Lawrence University mens soccer team would have been playing Williams College in an NCAA Division III quarterfinal this afternoon.
Saints sophomore Seyefe Brouk drilled a shot in the first sudden-death overtime that hit the side of the goalpost, nearly giving SLU a win over second-ranked Amherst.
But it was the Lord Jeffs who wound up celebrating just a few minutes later when Greg Singer scored his second goal of the game early in the second overtime session to give Amherst a 2-1 win in the third-round contest.
My heart stopped for a second, Singer said of seeing Brouks shot. We were fortunate today. They were unlucky, thats how the game turned out.
Singer, who is 6-foot-5, used his height on both goals, which came during scrambles in front of SLUs net.
The ball happened to fall in the right place at the right time, Singer said. I was there. My teammates did most of the work, I just happened to put it away.
Amherst (18-0-2) did not just dodge Brouks near game-winner. The Lord Jeffs were just 44 seconds away from a shutout win when SLUs Austin Roney scored to force overtime.
I almost dont know what to think of it, Saints goalie Aaron Costello said. It was amazing, really. Ive never seen Roney do anything like that. At first I couldnt believe it. I kind of blacked out and then I realized I was running down the field, celebrating with all the fans and stuff. It was great. We are a second-half team. Forty-four seconds left, it doesnt get much closer than that, but Im glad he scored.
Roneys goal was orginally credited to SLUs Dan Hunt.
Hes been hitting those all season in practice, so it was good to finally get one in a game, Hunt said of Roney. That really lifted our spirits. We kept pushing for another, but it wasnt coming. It just wasnt our day today. They are a rah-rah team. Coming out for the overtime they were quiet, so we were definitely in their heads after that.
Amherst dominated the first half, which ended scoreless. The Lord Jeffs had the ball in SLUs defensive end for most of the first 10 minutes and outshot the Saints 10-2 in the opening 45 minutes.
But SLU (17-3-2) began to take control of the game in the final 15 minutes of the second half and outshot Amherst 11-5 in that half and the first overtime. Amherst finished with a 17-13 edge in shots.
I knew we were pounding on the door late, Saints coach Bob Durocher said. We have our 10-minute offense, but I didnt know how it would work against these guys. We tried to put them back on their heels a little bit. I thought we had a chance. It picked our guys up and it dropped them down a bit.
SLU had another good chance to tie the game in the 77th minute when Jamal Samaroo had a shot at an open net only to find Amhersts Julien Aoyama sliding in at the last moment to kick the ball away.
(SLU) has an absolutely fantastic team and they scored eight goals last Sunday, so they can get a goal at any time, and they did, Amherst coach Justin Serpone said.
It was a ridicuolous finish. They found a way and thats what this team has done all year. Im so proud of them. It was a great soccer game with chances both ways and St. Lawrence is a fantastic program, and coach Durocher is a great coach.
The good news for SLU is the squad returns most of its key players next year, aside from leading scorer Andrew Bednarsky.
The team got a chance earlier this season to meet the members of the schools 1999 national championship team and realize those seniors had their own tough NCAA elimination games, especially a penalty-kick loss to Williams in 1998.
It was humbling, Costello said. You see all these guys coming to cheer you on who have done so much more than you have, and more than you can dream of, going 22-0, not losing or tying a game, just winning out. That was something special. Its even more special that they come back to celebrate with us almost every year.