Monday November 19, 2012

AMHERST -- As the final seconds of overtime ticked away and a penalty kick end to the scoreless NCAA Division III men's soccer game between Willams and Amherst was looming, Williams coach Mike Russo smiled.

"Just what my ticker needed," Russo said.

Fortunately for Russo, Patrick Ebobisse made sure Russo's heart could relax.

Ebobisse scored on the last of four straight penalty kicks to give Williams (18-1-3) the regional championship and a berth in the Division III Final Four. The 4-3 outcome handed Amherst (17-1-3) its first loss.

"It is a terrible way to decide a game, but someone has to move on," said Russo. "We've been on the other side of these as well, so it's not a good feeling. We're delighted."

Williams will be heading to San Antonio for the first time since 2009. The national semifinals and finals will be played the first weekend of December. Williams is seeking its first Division III national title since 1995.

The game was scoreless after 90 minutes and two, 10-minute overtime periods.

Williams goalie Than Finan and Amherst keeper Thomas Bull both made stops on the first penalty kicks. Amherst's third shooter, Julian Aoyama, missed his kick. Williams closed it out when Ebobisse buried his kick in the back of the net.

"You come down here expecting a battle. We battled them here to a 0-0 tie through double overtime and they came to our field and walked all over us in the biggest game of the year," said Finan, the Williamstown native and former Mount Greylock soccer standout. "We set goals -- individual and team goals -- as soon as the playoff start. Every single person had as the team goals to make it to the Final Four and to beat Amherst along the way."

Amherst outshot Williams 23-7 in the game, but Finan had to make only four saves. That's because the crossbar made more.

Amherst shooters rattled the ball off the crossbar five times. Three of them were in the first half and two came on consecutive shots about five seconds apart.

"I've never seen that in my life," Amherst coach Justin Serpone said. "Whether it's a soccer game or in life, sometimes things don't go your way. I wouldn't have changed anything about today. I thought we played well. I thought we did what we needed to do. The ball didn't go in the goal."

After the first saves in the penalty kick round, Amherst's Jae Heo and Williams' Peter Christman each buried their shots. Aoyama was next and he tried to put the ball into the upper right corner, but his shot sailed wide of the post.

"Actually, I dove the wrong way on the kick and at that point, you usually kind of assume it's going in," said Finan. "I looked back and I heard it hit the fence behind the goal. You don't like to celebrate that, but that's a leg up and that's all you need."

Nobody else missed. Federico Sucre's shot tied the round at 3. Ebobisse was next and while Bull did guess right, the Williams senior ripped the ball past the Amherst keeper to send the Ephs to Texas.

"Earlier during practice, I was kind of missing PKs," said Ebobisse. "My confidence was a little bit shot. With all the pressure on my back, I had to bury it for the team."