Every NCAA team has a defining moment during their run toward a championship. Saturday night, senior Jeff Light provided the Elizabethtown College men’s soccer team with one. In the 95th minute, Light scored to lift the Blue Jays to a first round victory over Vassar College, 1-0.
Light’s golden goal advanced Etown into the second round to face Rutgers-Newark University, which defeated New England College, 1-0 in their first round game. The Blue Jays will play in the second round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship for the first time since 2004.
In the first half, both teams were even in shots and entered the half scoreless. First-year Duncan George had an opportunity to put the Blue Jays ahead in the fourth minute with a header, but Vassar defender Hayden Van Brewer cleared the attempted shot away.
The second half was anything but even between the two sides as Vassar had the Blue Jays back on their heels for the final 45 minutes of regulation. The Brewers outshot Etown 9-1 in the second half but could never beat senior goalkeeper Ryan Sandell. Sandell finished with five saves to earn the win.
Light had an opportunity just a minute and a half into overtime, but his shot went wide of the goal. However, moments later the Blue Jays finally converted to earn the win. Sophomore Mitchell Gochnauer played the ball to Light on the left side, and Light beat his defender to advance the ball toward Vassar’s goal. Light ripped a shot from the left just outside the six-yard box, and it skidded through a group of Vassar and Etown players before finding the back of the net.
The Blue Jays’ 1-0 overtime victory was the program’s first since a 2-0 victory over Drew University back on Nov. 10, 2004.
Sunday, the Blue Jays played regional host to Rutgers University, Newark in a second round matchup to determine which team would reach the Sweet 16. Rutgers-Newark jumped on top of the Blue Jays early, scoring in the 3rd minute to take a 1-0 lead. Rutgers-Newark’s Chigozie Atubi crossed the ball toward the front of the goal, and Alex Torres was able to beat Sandell to give the Raiders an early advantage.
In the 15th minute, the Raiders struck again as Atubi set up his teammate Fabio De Sousa. DeSousa shot from outside the box which beat Sandell high and to his right. It was De Sousa’s 14th goal of the season and gave Rutgers-Newark a 2-0 lead.
The 10th-ranked Raiders never looked back, holding onto their two-goal lead until the final whistle. Etown outshot Rutgers-Newark 13-9 for the game but could not find the back of the net.
The Blue Jays season ended with a 14-4-2 record while the Raiders move on to their first Sweet 16 appearance in the program’s history.