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Men’s soccer falls in second round of NCAA tournament

The Case Western Reserve University men’s soccer team qualified for the NCAA Division III Championship tournament for the second year in a row and reached the second round to match the second-furthest run in program history. Unfortunately, the Spartans couldn’t push any further since they fell to the State University of New York at Cortland in a penalty kick shootout on Nov. 12.

The Spartans started off their postseason in Cortland, New York against Hobart College on Nov. 11. In the first 26 minutes the Spartans and the Statesmen were held in a stalemate. Both teams had the opportunity to take the first lead, with Hobart attempting six shots to the Spartans’ four. Eventually, third-year forward Kysen Kroeger broke the ice. Although fourth-year defender Alex Lippiatt missed his free kick, Kroeger was able to find the deflected ball and shot it into the back of the net for a 1-0 Spartan lead.

Kroeger notched his third goal of the season while Lippiatt recorded his sixth assist.

The Statesmen responded quickly in the 34th minute with a shot from 25 yards to tie the score 1-1.

While the Spartan defense clamped down and limited Hobart to just one more shot attempt for the rest of the half, the CWRU offense continued to flow, connecting again in the 44th minute of the first half. Back-and-forth passes from second-year forward McLaren Baggett and fourth-year midfielder Matt Vatne set up third-year midfielder Lukas Dalakis for a shot from the top of the box. Dalakis finished off the beautiful play, drilling the ball into the net for his second goal of the year. The first half ended with the Spartans up 2-1.

The Statesmen came out with a sense of urgency, attempting three shots in less than 15 minutes of action. But it was the Spartans who found the back of the net for the third time, with fourth-year defender Jad Oglesby scoring his first goal of the season. Oglesby took advantage of a three-on-two breakaway and shot the ball just below the crossbar to give the Spartans a 3-1 lead.

Hobart responded in less than two minutes to cut the lead to 3-2 for the Spartans. Nonetheless, the Spartans held on and controlled the tempo. Hobart attempted just one more shot for the rest of the game and CWRU went on to win the match 3-2.

Second-year goalie Bradley Winter anchored the Spartan defense, recording four saves to top off his first career postseason victory.

The next day CWRU faced off against sixth-ranked Cortland in their highest stakes game of the season. The match lived up to the excitement that comes with postseason. Unfortunately, it didn’t end in the Spartans’ favor.

The two teams went back and forth, but the game remained scoreless for the first half. Cortland held an offensive advantage and outshot the Spartans 6-4. The floodgates finally opened for Cortland in the second half, where they capitalized on a penalty kick to break the scoreless tie. Less than 12 minutes later, CWRU answered back with a goal from first-year midfielder Adam Pluszczyk. From a free kick attempt, the Spartans kicked the ball into the box, where Pluszczyk was in position to collect it and shoot it past the goalie for his first goal of his career and for the 1-1 tie.

In the last 20 minutes of the match, neither team was able to get ahead. The Red Dragons attempted one shot to the Spartans’ three.

Neither team attempted a shot in the first overtime period. CWRU missed their chance at the game in the second overtime with a high-sailing shot. After 110 minutes, the teams moved to a penalty shootout.

For the Spartans, Vatne, Lippiatt and fourth-year defender Josh Cook converted their attempts. But it was not enough to top Cortland, which went perfect on their five shots to win the game.

The Spartans ended their 2023 season with a 10-3-4 record for the second year in a row. The team went 3-2-2 in conference games while averaging 13.1 shots per game and holding a shots-on-goal percentage of 0.404.

Vatne, Cook, Lippiatt, Winter and fourth-year midfielder Jacob Salmon earned All-UAA honors. Vatne and Cook were named to the First Team, Lippiatt and Salmon to the Second Team and Winter as an honorable mention. Cook, Kroeger, Lippiatt, Salmon, Vatne and Winter were also named to the CSC Men’s Soccer Academic All-District Team for maintaining above a 3.50 GPA.

Vatne earned the United Soccer Coaches All-Region VII First Team honors and received the organization’s All-America Second Team honors.

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About the Contributor
Puneet Bansal, Sports Editor
Puneet Bansal (she/her) is a fourth-year student majoring in biochemistry and medical anthropology. She loves obsessing over food, spending time outdoors or annoying her friends. Hailing from the Bay Area, she is an ardent Golden State Warriors fan and finds it daunting to sport her Stephen Curry jersey around Cleveland.

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