Men's Soccer Wins CC Championship on Late Goal

Sunday, November 9, 2014

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celebration With under three minutes left to play and the Centennial Conference men’s soccer championship match seemingly destined for overtime, sophomore Phil Rahling found the ball at his feet with the chance to beat Haverford, again.

“I was just thinking, ‘Get a good touch, stay composed and put it on goal,’ and then it found the corner,” said Rahling, who for the second time this season scored a goal with under four minutes to play to beat Haverford.

This goal comes on a much bigger stage, giving Muhlenberg the sixth CC championship in program history, and its first since 2005.

The win gives the Mules (14-1-2) an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Selections and pairings will be announced on Monday.

“I can’t even describe it,” said senior goalie Danny Pinto, who made four saves to notch his 11th career shutout. “We made it to the semifinals when I was a freshman, and to come all the way back as a senior and win it is incredible.”

The Mules dominated the chances from the start. Rahling had the closest call in the first half, bending a beautifully shot ball from long range that hit the crossbar in the sixth minute. Sophomore Nick Sarkos also had a strong shot that looked goal-bound before the keeper made a save in the 21st minute. In total, the Mules took six shots, all threatening, in the first half.

“We felt we had the better play heading into the half,” said senior captain Bryan Attanasio. “Going into halftime scoreless could be better, but our nerves were never shaken. We knew we would just keep fighting.”

Haverford put the pressure on to start the second half. The Fords had four corners in the first 15 minutes, but the set pieces only yielded one shot on a goal, a header that was calmly saved by Pinto.

captains Senior Lance Dotzman started the final push for the Mules, forcing a diving save in the 70th minute. Ten minutes later, senior Travis Wantchekon put a well-hit ball on goal from inside the box that the keeper needed to go to the ground to save.

Finally, in the 88th minute, Rahling found possession on the left of the box and rolled in the winning goal towards the far post. It was a goal that looked eerily similar to the one the forward scored in the Mules epic 4-3 comeback win over the Fords on October 18.

For the majority of the second half it looked like the match would head into sudden-death overtime. The Mules had no plans for that.

“We wanted to slam our foot on the gas pedal and get the win before overtime,” said Dotzman, who was named tournament MVP.

Win they did, and once the final seconds fell from the scoreboard, a rush of fans met the team on the field to celebrate. Once things calmed down, and the Mules pulled their championship tee shirts over their heads, they raised a trophy that, for the seniors, was well worth the long journey.

“It’s a really incredible thing,” continued Dotzman (left, with Attanasio and Steve Ulrich of the CC office). “I’ve waited four years for this, and us seniors are so happy and so proud of everyone.”
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