The No. 14 Stevens Institute of Technology men’s soccer team dropped a spirited and competitive 1-0 match to Montclair State University in the Sectional Final of the 2011 NCAA Division III Men’s Championship in Amherst, Massachusetts on Sunday. The Ducks finish the year 18-3-1 and ranked as high as No. 4 in the country in some polls.
Stevens controlled play in the first five minutes, but perhaps got too confident and pressed forward more than they should have. Jon Christiansen was sprung with a long ball for a one-on-none breakaway, but Duck goalkeeper Paul Killian came far out of the cage and made him delay enough so that the crisis was averted.
Not long after, Leonardo Casas made a defensive save to keep the ball out of the net as the Red Hawks had something going with their long ball tactics. Anthony Roden saved an MSU shot with his head shortly after as the Red Hawks undoubtedly dictated the next 10 minutes but had nothing on the scoreboard to show for it.
A header from Stephen Dunbar with 24 minutes remaining finally stemmed the Red Hawk tide and gave Stevens their first shot in over 10 minutes.
The next stretch of the game was balanced, and included another good challenge by Dunbar, whose try was barely reached by the MSU goalie diving to his right.
Things seemed to settle down as the rest of the half ticked away. The Ducks were able to engineer some of their trademark passing schemes and began to impose their style of play on the match.
A final good shot by Adler with two minutes left was gobbled up by MSU goalie Anthony Rogic and the teams went into the break scoreless. The Red Hawks led most stat categories: Shots 11-8, fouls 2-1 and corners 4-2, though both teams put three shots on net.
Dunbar had the first good shot of the second, sending a shot just over the crossbar five minutes in.
The Ducks controlled possession, not allowing an MSU shot over the first 10 minutes of the half.
Jonathan Stallone unleashed a good drive with 29 minutes left as the Ducks hit another one just over the Montclair crossbar. Over the first 20 minutes of the half, Stevens asserted itself and had nearly all good scoring chances.
But it was the Red Hawks scored the go-ahead goal off of what was basically a set piece. Mike Rudden took a deep throw in, and a Montclair shot led to a rebound and scrum down in front. Christiansen corralled the ball and passed to Kevin Brown, who buried it in the open net with 16:12 remaining.
In the final minutes the Red Hawks did a textbook job of playing keep-away, and the Ducks managed to generate offense from only set pieces as the final sesconds of their season slipped away. The effort was clearly there, but the tying goal was not. The final whistle signaled the end to an epic campaign that saw the team start off 1-2 and went on to rip off 16-straight victories.
The Ducks advanced to the Elite 8 for the first time since their run to the National Championship Game in 2008. Sunday’s loss was the first setback for the squad since September 9, a streak of 18 unbeaten games.