John Andrews took the long, lonely walk from the center of the field to the penalty spot, where, as our final penalty shooter, he had the opportunity to win the tournament for HBS. Andrews placed the ball on the penalty spot, and the referee blew the whistle. Andrews took a deep breath and glided toward the ball as the crowd watched in anticipation. Ignoring the goalkeeper’s jerks and feints, Andrews suddenly sped toward the ball and sent it screaming into the lower left corner of the net. It was all over and HBS had claimed their fourth Championship title this season. The HBS players rushed the field toward Andrews and celebrated a hard-fought victory.
The tournament at Brandeis University was the fourth of five played this year by HBS Soccer. Already amongst the hardest to win because of the large undergraduate presence from UCONN, Boston College and others (remember, we are old men in comparison!), the HBS team had to compete the first game with just 10 players due to injury and paper related drop-outs. To make up a full 11, Andrews decided to join the team despite a fractured rib. While we now had a full team, there would be no substitutes for the five punishing games of the tournament.
After proceeding through the first round on the dedication of players like Eric Lechien and Juan-Carlos de Yeregui, HBS found itself in the semi-finals against Brandeis. This action-packed game ended in a 1-1 draw, sending the game to a penalty shoot-out. Great goalkeeping by Gile pushed us into the Final. Gile saved two of five penalties, and one of their penalties was off-target. That was sufficient to win the game.
The Final pitted HBS against Boston College – the heavily favored team that had beaten every other opponent thus far. BC scored an unstoppable shot early in the game and continued the pressure relentlessly. The unswerving French determination of Franck Koestel and Julien Jenoudet was critical to keeping the HBS spirit high.
Suddenly, with only 10 minutes to go, James “Victory at All Costs” Gowers, the captain and heart of the team, stormed forward with iron will and created a chance that led to a foul in the opponents’ box. Glen Moller converted the penalty to equalize at 1-1. HBS’s 11 exhausted but defiant men now fought a bitter battle against BC’s fresher (and younger) 18-man squad. With little real chance to score more goals, HBS played a smart defensive war of attrition. In the frantic closing minutes of the game, miraculous saves by Gile and heroics by Koestel, Kromwyk, Gowers, and Marcos closed down the last attacking moves of the frustrated BC team.
Again, with a 1-1 tie during normal time, a 5-penalty shoot-out would determine the winner. The first four (of five) HBS shooters scored: Moller, then de Yeregui, then Marcos, then Lamont. Then Gile saved the fourth BC penalty. We were at a crucial moment: with the Championship on the line, our fifth penalty taker Andrews tucked his penalty away calmly. We could not believe it – Champions!
And here are some more memorable highlights:
Angriest Reprimand: James Gowers’ unrepeatable rebuke of a dirty opponent.
Most Impressive Sacrifice: Paul Kromwyk’s save on our goal-line of a powerful BC shot… with his head!
Best Goal: Jeff Lamont’s left-wing drive, outplaying two defenders, and then beating the goalkeeper with a controlled, flat left shot against Holy Cross.
Most Dazzling: Juan Carlos de Yeregui’s godly ball-handling, which no opponent can ever seem to interrupt.
Most Power and Influence: JP Marcos’ constant hammering of strikers that dared to enter his zone of operation.
Editor’s Note: The HBS team played this weekend at the MBA World Cup at Dartmouth against teams from Europe and the US. We’re certain they gave their best effort, but results were unavailable at press time. Check back next week for results!