MEN'S SOCCER WINS NESCAC TITLE, ON TO NCAA TOURNEY

AMHERST, Mass. -- The Colby College men's soccer team made team and conference history Sunday by winning a 4-3 penalty-kick shootout over Williams College to capture the New England Small College Athletic Conference title.
 
The Mules earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. The NCAA selection show will be Monday at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast here. Colby wins its first NESCAC title in men's soccer and makes conference history by becoming the first eighth seed to win the league title.
 
"It was an incredible effort by absolutely every team member. I'm so proud of this group," Colby head coach Ewan Seabrook said. "We also knew that today was going to be tough because of the back-to-back nature of the NESCAC championships. First-years Dextor Kalderon and Jared Wood played important minutes, and senior Jacob Tower was immense in the second half."
 
Colby's other trip to the NCAA tourney happened in 1963, four years after the varsity program started in 1959.
 
Sunday's game will go down in the record books as a 0-0 tie, but the Mules (8-6-4 overall) win the league title and get the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney by winning the shootout.
 
"I'm so grateful to get another week of training with this group of young men. They are outstanding," Seabrook said. 
 
The Mules had a stunning eight days of soccer, starting with last Sunday's penalty-kick shootout win over second-ranked Tufts University. Colby followed that up with a 3-1 victory over 20th-ranked Amherst College on Saturday. 
 
"It's such a surreal feeling winning the way we did. Our playoffs got to start a bit early because we needed to beat Bates to even get the eighth seed," Colby's David Howarth said. "Being able to knock off the number two team in the country, beat Amherst on their field, and manage again to win in penalties shows the mental toughness of the lads. Coming into the preseason we had a goal of winning a NESCAC championship. We worked hard, persevered, and made history."
 
Combining the playoff results with Colby's 2-0 victory over Bates in the regular season finale, the Mules have allowed just one goal in the last 400 minutes. 
 
Penalty kicks
* Colby's 3-2 win against Tufts in penalty kicks gave the Mules some confidence if a shootout came up again. Seabrook once again went with Matt Johnson in goal during the shootout.
 
* The Mules shot second against the Jumbos last week, but were the first shooters Sunday. After the first players both missed for the Mules and Ephs, Howarth left no doubt on his penalty kick with a hard blast, but Nick Ranieri went to the right corner for Williams to tie it at 1-1. Howarth also scored last week against Tufts in the shootout.
 
"Honestly, I was a little more nervous this time around," Howarth said. "But I knew Matt would save at least one, so I was confident we would pull through."
 
* Lucas Pereira buried his penalty kick to put the pressure on the Ephs. Williams, though, responded again when Demian Gass also went to the right corner for a 2-2 tie after three shooters.
 
* Colby went to first-year Colin Sullivan in a pressure situation as the fourth shooter, but he handled it perfectly by giving the Mules a 3-2 edge. The Ephs' Chris Fleischer made it 3-3 after four shooters.
 
* Ethan Fabricant, another first-year for the Mules, also had steely nerves in making the fifth penalty kick and forcing Williams to make its fifth to keep the shootout going. Johnson, who made two saves last Sunday against Tufts, made his second save against Williams to give Colby the title.
 
"I had nerves, there is no real way around that," Fabricant said. "With the support of the team and coaches, (Colin) and I were able to compose ourselves."
 
Fabricant had an emotional day, winning a league title in his first season at Colby and having to play against Williams' Bobby Fabricant, his older brother.
 
"I couldn't be more proud of my brother, he gave an unbelievable effort," Fabricant said. "The Williams soccer team did an amazing job and made us fight hard until the end." 
 
By the numbers
* Williams (8-5-3) had a 21-10 shot advantage and a 6-3 margin in corner kicks. Both teams had three shots in overtime.
 
* Colby goalkeeper Dan Carlson earned his shutout with nine saves, while Williams keeper Aaron Schein also had a shutout with three stops.
 
"Dan was again stellar in goal. He resonated confidence and stability and that gives your team so much confidence," Seabrook said."The goalkeepers are a team within a team. Dan wouldn't be having the season he is without MJ and Matty Morin, and Matt Johnson wouldn't have made the impact he has without those two pushing him in training."
 
Quotable (head coach Ewan Seabrook)
 
"Williams is an excellent team. They just don't give you anything and have so much athleticism up front. Erin (Sullivan) is an excellent coach and, despite no goals in the run of play, it really was a very good final. I think both teams represented the league well in terms of competing hard, sportsmanship, and respect."
 
"Our conference is so tough in terms of the level of every team. We often say that if your're able to get to the national tournament, while it won't get any easier, it certainly won't get any harder."
 
"Matt Johnson's inspiration is his younger brother, Will, who is also our team manager. I'll be honest, Will is an inspiration to our entire program."
 
"I want to thank assistant coach Tim Stanton for doing an incredible job, and also athletic trainer Kristine Popelka, and our student managers Max Matel, Sam Leppo, and Will Johnson. Today was about the effort and commitment of everyone in our program."