New England Soccer Today

Bears maul Eagles in NCAA opening round

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Jon Okafor and Austin Mandel led 14th-ranked Brown University to a convincing 2-1 NCAA First Round Tournament victory over 21st-ranked Boston College Thursday night at Stevenson Field.

Okafor opened the account with an amazing effort in the 11th minute before BC’s Kyle Bekker leveled it with a spectacular shot in the 41st minute. But less than three minues after the Eagles’ equalizer, Brown recaptured the lead when Mandel slotted home the game-winner in the 43rd minute.

“It was a very exciting night for us to play at Stevenson Field and against an ACC foe in Boston College,” said Brown Head Coach Patrick Laughlin. “I thought many players stepped up and a lot of guys had to come in and fill some voids, and they did an excellent job with that.”

Brown looked dangerous from the opening whistle with a boisterous home crowd behind them. Okafor and strike partner Sean Rosa tested the BC backs with solid runs in and around the box.

It did not take long for the fierce attack found paydirt. Taking the ball near center circle, Okafor shuffled through no fewer than three Eagles’ defenders before depositing the ball into the back of the net to give the Bears the lead in the 11th minute.

Although they were faced with an early deficit, BC looked surprisingly casual in the in the midfield, as the Bears won nearly every ball in the middle third.

Eventually, the Eagles began to fly in the closing minutes of the half. After Rosa nearly made it 2-0 with a hard shot that BC keeper Justin Luthy pawed out of harm’s way, Ed Kelly’s boys blazed into Brown territory before Bekker gave it a go from 30 yards and buried it for the equalizer in the 41st minute.

The Eagles momentum did not last long though. A furious Brown attack barrelled its way toward Luthy and reclaimed the lead when Rosa fed a perfect ball to Mandel on the doorstep, where he coolly put it through in the 43rd minute.

BC was slow to respond in the second half as Brown was more than glad to take the initiative and boss possession.

Mandel searched for a second goal in the 49th minute when he carried it deep into the right channel before his shot flew over the bar.

Another opportunity arose in the 68th minute when David Walls whipped a corner into the box where Dylan Remick towered over the posse of players and nearly glanced through before a pair of Eagles defenders denied the opportunity

Meanwhile, Bears midfielder Jay Hayward terrorized the Eagles backs with brilliant runs and deadly passing.

With his club struggling to keep up, Bekker staked a rare opportunity to level it again in the 70th when he sent another shot from distance that skipped wide of the near post.

The relentless Bears nearly secured a two-goal cushion when Hayward blasted a blistering free kick from 20 yards that pounded the near post.

In the closing minutes, the Bears defending held its end of the bargain by smothering the few remaining chances the Eagles mustered as the kids from College Hill sealed the result.

“I think we’ve been pretty solid defensively all year, and it’s something we practice all the time and we’re very confident in each other,” said Walls. “It starts at the top and its a team effort. Everyone that comes in works hard.”

With the victory, Brown advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they will face off against Connecticut in Storrs, CT on November 21st.

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