The men’s soccer team was able to hold its own and keep a tied score against the No. 11 Princeton Tigers (13–3–1, 7–0–0 Ivy) for more than 60 minutes on Saturday. But in the end, freshman Princeton midfielder Patrick O’Neil broke the tie in the 62nd minute with an unassisted goal and the Bulldogs (3–12–2, 1–5–1) fell in their final game of the season, 2–1.
The Bulldogs spent the entire first half and a good amount of the second even with the Tigers. Princeton went undefeated in the Ivy League and clinched the Ivy title with Saturday’s win. The Tigers will go on to compete in the NCAA Tournament, starting on Thursday.
“We proved that we deserve to be on the field with a great team like Princeton,” defender Chris Dennen ’12 said. “It was a pretty even match. We just were unlucky that it went the wrong way, but we proved to ourselves and to them that we can be at the same level.”
The Tigers got on the board first in the 34th minute. Benjamin Burton was in the right place to receive Mark Linnville’s corner kick as he headed the cross into the right corner of the net past Bulldog goalie Bobby Thalman ’13.
Just as it was beginning to look like the first-place Tigers were getting some momentum, the visiting team scored an own goal. Two minutes after Burton’s header goal, the Bulldogs pressured the Tiger defense as they sent a cross into Princeton’s zone that was knocked in by one of their own players, past goaltender Sean Lynch.
“We competed hard on Saturday,” Dennen said. “At some points in the season there have been games that we lost because our effort wasn’t consistent for the whole 90 minutes. Yesterday was an important one, it being our seniors’ last game, and we played hard through the whole game and honored them in that way.”
The Bulldogs then took advantage of the own-goal luck as they kept the Tigers out of the goal for the remainder of the half. The home team lasted for 17 minutes in the second half without allowing a goal, but that ended at 62:45. The game-winner came off an unassisted goal from Princeton’s Patrick O’Neil. The midfielder took his first shot that was blocked by Thalman, but the rebound proved to be too much for the goalie, as O’Neil followed his own ball and placed the second shot past Thalman into the right corner.
“I’m proud of the way we played,” Thalman said. “It was definitely how our team has acted throughout the season — never giving up even when we were down a couple goals. It was a good effort overall.”
The Bulldogs fought for the remaining 26 minutes but were unable to bring the score back to even. The whistle blew and the Tigers completed the first perfect Ivy League season record in their history.
Thalman recorded three saves on the day and Lynch had two. The Tigers outshot the Bulldogs by an overwhelming 14-3 margin. Although the season ended with a loss, Hackbarth says the team is proud to have stuck with such a tough Princeton squad.
“I feel that this game was kind of a bittersweet way to end the season,” he said. “Our team has to be happy with how we played against No. 11 in the nation but also it was another close loss. I feel that we have made some strides during the last couple weeks that will give us a good building block for next year.”