Men's soccer claims ECAC title with 5-3 win over NEC

WALTHAM, Mass. – Fourth-seeded Brandeis University scored five first-half goals today to defeat seventh-seeded New England College and claim the 2006 ECAC Division III New England Men's Soccer championship.

The contest looked like it would be a shootout right from the outset, thanks to the sloppy weather. New England College (12-7-2) got on the board quickly, as junior back Nel Lima (Melrose, Mass.) timed his leap perfectly to head home a free kick by senior forward John Bavota (Tewksbury, Mass.) at the 3:41 mark.

Brandeis (13-7-3) answered just over two minutes later at the 5:54 mark when senior Mike Snyder (Ashby, Mass.) scored his 11th goal of the season. An initial cross was intercepted by a Pilgrim defender, but Snyder thwarted the clearing attempt and sent it home to knot the game.

Judge senior back Scott Zackaroff (Bath, Ohio) put the Judges head for good just over six minutes later. Sophomore forward Ben Premo (Florence, Mass.) sent the ball to Zackaroff about 20 yards out. He ripped the ball on net and it slipped through the hands of NEC netminder Nick Kropelin (Jeffersonville, Vt.), putting Brandeis ahead 2-1. Snyder added his second goal of the game and third of the tournament at the 23:15 mark when he flicked home a long ball off the foot of junior back Joe Levitan (Baltimore, Md.).

New England College wasn't done yet, however. The Pilgrims cut the lead to 3-2 six minutes later when they drew a penalty kick. Bavota's initial kick was stopped by Brandeis rookie goalie Taylor Bracken (No. Andover, Mass.), but Bavota pounced on the rebound for his 10th goal of the season.

The Judges got a penalty kick of their own at the 37:45 mark when NEC back-up goalkeeper Chris Corwin (Corning, N.Y.) picked up a yellow card breaking up a Brandeis breakaway. Junior back Brett Fitzgerald (Hubbardston, Mass.) converted his third PK of the season to put the margin back to 4-2. Rookie midfielder Alex Zenerovitz (Acton, Mass.) pushed the lead to 5-2 less than 30 seconds later, when he spun and shot a feed from senior forward Jason Ring (Stoneham, Mass.) just inside the near post. It was the first collegiate goal for Zenerovitz.

The Brandeis defense settled into their game in the second half. It looked like the 5-2 score would hold up, but Brandeis was sent a man down with 22 minutes remaining, allowing the Pilgrims to increase their pressure. It paid off when junior midfielder James Palumbo (Kingston, N.H.) sent a shot from 20 yards out that deflected off a Brandeis defender and past Bracken at the 73:08 mark. NEC tried to cut further into the lead, but Bracken made two diving saves in the final 10 minutes to secure the win.

Snyder, who led the Judges with three goals, including the game-winner in the semifinal victory over Babson, was named tournament MVP. This was Brandeis men's soccer second ECAC title, to go with one in 1994. It was also the second ECAC crown of the fall for Brandeis, as the Judges captured volleyball honors on Saturday.