Graduate defender Thomas Toney passes the ball during a game against Brandeis University (Mass.) on Oct. 20. (Natalie Sandlow/Staff Photographer)

Emory University men’s soccer team kicked off their NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Tournament on damp grass and 50-degree weather. The Eagles beat Brevard College (N.C.) 3-0 in the first round at home on Nov. 11 before losing to Colorado College 2-1 in the second round of the tournament.In their match against Brevard, the Eagles dominated possession and were aggressive in the first half, but the opposing team’s strong defense prevented the Eagles from scoring. The game remained 0-0 heading into halftime.

The game remained a constant back and forth in the second half. Sophomore midfielder Josh Grand broke the deadlock by tapping in a rebound from junior defender Sebastian Rincon’s shot for the Eagles’ first goal in the 62nd minute.

“They were sitting pretty deep for the first half,” graduate forward Colton Myers said. “We had our chances, Josh and I combined, and I put a poor effort on goal. But as the game opened up in the second half, we actually got some space behind them.”

Grand noted that scoring a goal before the end of regulation time to avoid penalty kicks was like a “weight” off his back. 

 “The ball just fell to me, and [I put it] in the back of the net,” Grand said. “It was a great feeling — everyone down the sideline, all your teammates running after you.

Freshman midfielder Michael Constant found Myers one minute after Grand’s goal. Myers was able to break away from a Brevard defender and scored with a rainbow shot to extend the lead.

“I noticed that the one center back was creeping forward, and [Constant] and I made eye contact,” Myers said. “When that happened, I started the run, and he played me over the top. Great ball [that Constant] got over the first and second defender, saw the goalie coming out, took a touch and just tried to chip them — and it went in the net.”

The Eagles finished off their dominant showing with a goal by junior defender Ryan Hayes, assisted by Myers, in the 67th minute. Grand said the win was one to get them back on track after two 1-0 losses against the University of Chicago and the University of Rochester (N.Y.). 

Head coach Cory Greiner noted the gravity of the game’s first round.

“Anytime you’re in a situation where it could be the end of the season for either team, it puts, certainly, a little bit extra emotion into the game for both sides,” Greiner said. “That was one of the points that I made with our guys after the game … we got to understand that [we’re] probably ending some kids’ soccer careers or certainly their season, so we have to mentally be able to prepare for that and deal with that.”

The Eagles hosted No. 16 Colorado College on Nov. 12. Senior forward Joe Beare said that they expected Colorado to be a good team. 

“We played Oglethorpe earlier in the season and drew with them 2-2,” Beare said. “[Colorado] beat them 3-2 … Anyone can win on the day, but we knew they were going to be a solid team, and we knew it was going to be a tight game.”

Both teams fought hard in the first half of the game, but Colorado had more scoring opportunities. In a fast break attack by Colorado, freshman midfielder Jack Hilliard dribbled past graduate defender Thomas Toney and passed to senior midfielder Alexander Ward, whose shot was saved by senior goalkeeper Peter Wagner. Sophomore midfielder Connor Webster capitalized on the initial save by Wagner and tapped the ball into the back of the net in the 22nd minute to give Colorado the lead.

Emory trailed 1-0 at halftime and entered the second half more eager to score an equalizing goal to keep their season alive. Yet, most of the second half was a fight for ball possession.

With six minutes to go left in regulation time, freshman defender Turner MacInnis crossed the ball from the right to senior forward Alejandro Gomez, who headed the ball in to make the game 1-1. Gomez said that he will miss celebrating scoring with his teammates and Emory fans the most.

“Getting an opportunity to do that in probably the biggest game or the most important game I ever played in with the biggest crowd I ever played in, being able to scream such a big goal at the end of such an emotional game, I really couldn’t have asked for more,” Gomez said.

In overtime, both teams fought to get a goal to avoid penalty kicks. After 110 minutes, the score remained 1-1, sending the game to penalties.

Gomez found the back of the net with the first penalty, but Myers missed the second kick to the left of sophomore goalkeeper Jasper Broad. Although Hayes and Grand made their penalty kicks, the Eagles lost the shootout 5-3 after a game-winning penalty from Colorado’s Ward.

With their loss in the national tournament, the squad ends their University Athletic Association title-winning season. Beare, who played his final match for the Eagles on Nov. 12, said he sees hope for future players and urges them to not be “complacent.”

“You can lose that culture very quickly,” Beare said. “It’s something that has to be proactively maintained. It requires that, maybe this spring, you do some 5 a.m. sessions and you do a lot of conditioning work again … You always have to play almost as if you have a chip on your shoulder and you’re trying to prove something.”

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Clement Lee (he/him) (24Ox) is from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is on the pre-BBA track. Outside the Wheel, Clement can be found reading new books or going on long runs in the woods.