November 11, 2012

Ocel's late goal against Vassar gets men's soccer into Sweet 16

The Brandeis men earned their first-ever share of the UAA title with a 1-0 win at NYU in their season finale. Though they didn’t earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament because of tiebreakers, a 16-2-1 regular season made a spot in the Big Dance seemed assured. The big news – in addition to Sam Ocel '13's UAA Player of the Year and Coven and staff’s UAA Coaches of the Year awards – was that the Judges would be at home for their first two rounds for their first NCAA bid since 1985.

Ocel, who scored seven game-winning goals during the regular season, including in the Judges’ final three wins, continued his hot streak in the opening round against underdogs Baruch, scoring twice in the first 13 minutes, including one more assist from Russo.

The next night against Vassar College – which had advanced by defeating Tufts on a penalty kick in double overtime the night before – the teams played a back-and-forth game that was scoreless for eight-nine-and-a-half minutes. Both the Judges and Brewers had goals called back because of offside calls and huge saves by both their goalkeepers and their defense. Ultimately, it was the duo of Russo and Ocel who helped the home team prevail. As both teams tired late in the game, the ball went up and down the field. After Russo carried the ball from midfield in the 90th minute, he saw a streaking Ocel out of the corner of his eye. Russo sent a perfect cross into the box, and Ocel dove and redirected the ball with his head past the outstretched Vassar netminder, sending the Judges to the 1-0 win with just 29.4 seconds left in regulation.

The Judges’ season would come to a close with an 18-3-1 record following a 1-0 loss to Williams in the Sweet 16, but Ocel, who finished with 13 goals and eight assists and had game-winning goals in half of the Judges’ victories, earned All-America honors from d3soccer.com (1st team) and the NSCAA (3rd team). He will be back in 2013 after missing his sophomore season due to injury.

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