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Men's Soccer Wins Centennial Conference Championship

Men's Soccer Wins
Centennial Conference Championship

by Mark Anskis

garnet men's soccer
The Centennial title is the Garnet's second in program history and gives Swarthmore an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships.

Kieran Reichert '13 scored a golden goal in the 106th minute of play off a well-placed header in the box from captain Gage Newman '11, as the Garnet (15-1-3) defeated Muhlenberg 2-1 (2OT) to capture the Centennial Conference Championship on Sunday evening from Clothier Field.

The Centennial title is the Garnet's second in program history, with the first coming in 2008. The win gives Swarthmore an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. The NCAA berth is Swarthmore's third consecutive - a new program record - and sixth overall.

With the victory, Swarthmore becomes the first team in Centennial Conference Championship history to win a game after trailing 1-0 at halftime. Reichert's golden goal is just the second in Centennial Conference final history (first was Max Venker of Johns Hopkins in 2006).

A wildly-entertaining back-and-forth game between the two clear-cut leaders in the Centennial saw plenty of scoring opportunities, tremendous play for both goalkeepers and - in what is becoming a trend for this Garnet squad - some late-game heroics.

The physical game, which saw the two teams combined for 36 fouls, five cards and a yellow issued in the first six minutes of play, saw the Mules strike first. Mike Williams - who finished the Championship with two goals and two assists - scored the Mules lone goal in the 29th minute, when his shot from 15-yards out hit a Swarthmore defender, changed direction and sailed over the head of D'Annunzio. Muhlenberg maintaind the advantage throughout the remainder of the first half and went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.

In the second half, Swarthmore began to shift the momentum, as it ramped up the offensive attack, with Morgan Langley '11, Fabian Castro '12, and Roberto Contreras '12 all seeing excellent chances in front of the net foiled by diving Berg defenders in 58th minute, and Langley missing just wide in the 65th minute. The game-changing play came in the 75th minute when Henry Ainley '12, who played a solid overall game off the bench, drew a hard foul from a Muhlenberg defender in the box to force a penalty kick. From there, captain Micah Rose '12 stepped to the ball and converted the kick, giving the Garnet the late score, making it a 1-1 game and bringing life to the Swarthmore crowd.

In overtime for the second-consecutive game and fourth-consecutive playoff game, the Garnet outplayed the Mules, nearly ending the contest on several occasions, while not allowing Muhleberg to get a single shot on goal. In the final five minutes alone, only fantastic saves from Muhlenberg goalkeeper Jason Daniels prevented shots by Langley  (100th minute), Rose (102nd minute) and David Sterngold '12 (105th minute) from ending the game.

But Muhlenberg's luck ran out in the 106th minute, as the Garnet's late-season magic finally came to life.

Following a Muhlenberg foul, Castro booted a powerful free kick into the Swarthmore area. Newman rose up above crowd on the left wing, headed the ball towards the right wing, where an unmarked Reichert was waiting to win the championship for the Garnet.

With the ball in the back of the net, Reichert was mobbed by his teammates, coaches and Swarthmore fans storming the field to celebrate the championship.

A day after helping the Garnet advance by stopping Johns Hopkins' final penalty kick, goalkeeper David D'Annunzio '12 was solid in net once again, making five saves to keep the Garnet in the game. His counterpart from Muhleberg was equally as impressive, as Daniels finished the day with seven saves.

The victory extends the Garnet's Clothier Field unbeaten streak to 25 games.

Overall, Swarthmore has won four-consecutive playoff games at Clothier Field after conceding the first goal.

Swarthmore will now await Monday's NCAA selection to find out its next opponent.