Williams men's soccer team set for Final Four
WILLIAMSTOWN -- It took a shootout victory over its archrival to send the Williams College men's soccer team to the NCAA Division III Final Four.
As the Ephs prepare for their trip to San Antonio this weekend, coach Mike Russo's team is working hard to put the Elite Eight win over Amherst in the rearview mirror.
"We've actually made a little bit of an effort to try and come down in order to focus on what we have ahead of us," Williams goalkeeper Than Finan said. "We're really going down to Texas with one thing on our minds, and that's winning a national championship.
"You can't be living on last week's glory when you have another team waiting on Friday."
Finan, a Williamstown native who won a state championship in soccer at Mount Greylock, will lead the Ephs into battle Friday against Ohio Northern.
"At this point, every team you see is good," said Finan. "Their only two losses came to the defending national champion and then Carnegie Mellon, that's pretty good."
The Williams-Ohio Northern game will be the second contest of a doubleheader at San Antonio's Blossom Soccer Stadium. Messiah, the No. 1 team in the most recent D3soccer.com national poll, will play Loras in the 11 a.m. first game. Loras comes into the Final Four ranked No. 2.
Ohio Northern enters play ranked fifth and Williams seventh. That game will be played at 1:30. The winners play Saturday at 1:30.
Russo's Ephs (16-1-4) are making their 17th tournament appearance and fifth visit to the national semifinals. Williams lost to UC-San Diego in 1993 in the title game but came back in 1995 and beat Methodist for Russo's only championship.
Ohio Northern (24-2-0) comes into this weekend on a 17-game winning streak. The Polar Bears have been to sixth NCAA tournaments, but are in their first Final Four.
"They have three skilled forwards who have scored a ton of goals," the Williams keeper said. "Skilled forwards and in the back, they try to boot it long if you put them under pressure."
Those forwards are Keegan Ross (22 goals), Nate Bascom (17 goals) and Cam Johnson (12 goals). Ohio Northern keeper Mac Church has 14 shutouts.
Finan has seven shutouts, including the 0-0 result in Amherst that the Ephs won 4-3 on PKs. NESCAC rookie of the year Mohammed Rashid leads the Ephs with six goals and seven assists while User Kushaina has five goals and Patrick Ebobisse has four -- all game winners. Ebobisse netted the game-winning PK against Amherst.
For Finan, Ebobisse, and fellow seniors Matt Ratajczak and Peter Christman, this is their second Final Four trip. The quartet were freshmen when Williams last advanced to San Antonio.
Williams flew out of Albany Wednesday morning. The team did some training on Wednesday and today practiced and worked with a Special Olympics program during the afternoon.
"Friday is all about game day," said Finan.
The last week of classes at Williams for the fall semester begins on Monday. Finan said the seniors have advised the underclassmen not to be cramming this weekend. Finan said he has a midterm on Monday.
"We try to get as much done now as we can, so when we get down there, we can focus and not have to be staying up and worrying about other things," he said.
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