By Esteban Bachelet
In the 1980 Winter Olympics, American collegiate hockey players took down the Soviet powerhouse that had won four straight gold medals. Ten years later, Buster Douglas brought down heavyweight Mike Tyson at the peak of his career. Then, in the 2007 Super Bowl, the New York Giants drove down the field and spoiled the Patriots’ bid to a perfect season. Fortune favors those who believe. Fortune favors those who prove worth.
On Saturday night, the Kenyon men’s soccer team proved their worth in a 2-1 victory over No. 8 Wheaton College, a match they would not have played had they not won 2-0 the night before against No. 19 Ohio Northern University .
With the pair of wins, Kenyon moves on to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time since they reached the final in 1996.
The wins also mark the first time Head Coach Chris Brown has passed the first round since taking the helm in 2005.
“Very happy,” Brown told Kenyon Sports Connection after the game, speaking over the Lords’ joyous celebrations. “We got out of a very tough matchup,” he added.
Indeed, the Lords needed talent, great defensive play, heart and some fortune to win both games.
Sam Justice ’15 got the Lords started early against No. 19 ONU (18-4-0) with a fourth-minute header. The Polar Bears rebounded well, forcing goalkeeper Sam Clougher ’17 to make four saves before the break.
“We didn’t play very well in the first half. Sometimes when we score early, we switch off a little bit,” Brown told KSC.
The Lords fixed any issues at halftime and came back the better team.
“I was way back at midfield,” Jeremiah Barnes ’16 said, regarding his positioning when Tony Amolo ’17 surged into the opposition’s box. Barnes then sprinted to catch up with his teammate. “I trusted what [Amolo] would do all year, and that is beat three players,” Barnes said.
The move paid off as the ball squeezed out for Barnes to tap home and put the Lords up 2-0. The Polar Bears pushed back in the last 15 minutes, making a case to cut the deficit on multiple occasions. Clougher made six more saves, three of which came in the final minute.
“We did have a little bit of lady luck on our side,” Brown said to KSC.
At one point, a chip from an ONU player struck woodwork only to bounce harmlessly into the arms of Clougher. With ONU sent packing, the Lords learned they would play host No. 9 Wheaton College the following night.
Wheaton owned the first half and much of the midfield battle, forcing Clougher to make three saves. After the break, Wheaton reapplied pressure, getting off three more shots, one of which hit the crossbar. As the game continued on at 0-0, the Lords gained confidence. However, inclement weather, including heavy rain and steady winds, paused the game at a moment when the Lords had the momentum. After the 15-minute delay, Co-Captain Andrew Parmelee ’14 sent a long ball to Josh Lee ’17, who gathered it at the corner of the 18-yard box, cut past his defender and sent a shot flying over the outstretched fingertips of the Wheaton goalkeeper.
“A lot of adrenaline. Ran to the sideline. Couldn’t ask for anything better,” Lee told KSC regarding his emotions after scoring. Just two minutes later, Amolo gathered a long ball, froze the keeper and smashed it in the net to make it 2-0. Wheaton got a goal back after catching the Lords off guard with a quick free kick.
The Lords hunkered down in the final minute and their gritty defensive effort held the one-goal lead. Kenyon will head east to Grantham, Pa. on Saturday to face No. 4 Messiah College (20-1-1) for a chance to move on to the Elite Eight.
Messiah, the reigning national champion, has won nine national titles in the last 12 years.