Men’s soccer makes history in wild NEWMAC semifinal win over MIT


Danny Kennedy

The men’s soccer team embracing after a hard-fought penalty shootout win against MIT in the NEWMAC semifinals.

By Abigail Lott

As the crossbar vibrated and the ball landed just in front of the goalline, the missed penalty signified a historic men’s soccer win against MIT, sending them to their first NEWMAC Championship since joining the conference in 2013.

In their NEWMAC semifinal matchup against MIT, the Emerson men’s soccer team won 4-3 on penalties in what head coach Daniel Toulson dubbed “the craziest game of soccer I’ve been involved in.”

Finishing 4-2-1 in the NEWMAC, the No. 2 Lions were pinned against the No. 3 Engineers — a match up the Lions won on Oct. 8, 3-1. The match marked the first time the men’s soccer team participated in the playoffs, luckily gaining an advantage playing at their home field of Rotch. 

After 110 minutes of  back-and-forth play with each side holding the lead at different points in the game, the Lions showed their grit coming out on top.

“I think the name of the game was the resilience of the group,” said graduate midfielder Skyler Stark-Ragsdale. “We’ve been resilient all season. I knew all the guys could do it. I have trust and faith in every single one of them.”

The scoring started in the 30th minute with a goal by Emerson’s Thomas Chuaqui and assisted by first-year Jorah Delbanco. MIT came back with a goal of their own in the 40th minute, eventually tying the game by halftime.

The first half also featured two yellow cards, one to both teams. Throughout the game, the referee would give out six yellow cards in total. 

One of those yellow cards went to MIT’s goalkeeper in the 70th minute after he pushed an Emerson player to the ground when trying to punt the ball away. The referees ended up awarding a penalty kick to the Lions, shot by sophomore midfielder Gregory Kopanezos to make the score 2-1. 

Players on each side began to become verbally hostile taking cheap shots at each other. With tensions flaring, things turned bad for the Lions when junior midfielder Ben Deeming received a second yellow card in the 82nd minute, slating the Lion’s to 10-men for the remainder of the game. 

MIT capitalized on the one man advantage, scoring on a corner kick in the 86th minute. The Lions held on through the rest of the half with several shots made by MIT after the goal. Regulation time ended with a 2-2 draw.

“I think the biggest part for us was just to continue with our team culture,” Toulson said. “We’re a really close knit group and we made sure that was shown on the field.”

The first goal in overtime came six minutes in by MIT with a header. Putting their resilience to the test, the Lions stormed back just minutes later to tie the game, but just as Emerson thought they tied the game, an offsides call overturned the goal. 

With the minutes counting down and their season on the line, luck turned to the Lion’s side during the second half of extra time. First-year midfielder Gabe Rich flew the ball across the penalty area to find senior defender Bo Feekins at the back post to tie the game up 3-3. 

The game went onto penalties, with fans moving over to the MIT goal, lining up right on the sideline to cheer for their team. Chants from fans hoping for an Emerson victory rang throughout the penalty shootout.

Photo: Arthur Mansavage
Fans of the men’s soccer team wait in anticipation for the beginning of the penalty shootout

“We practiced some [penalty kicks] and I think we trust each other and no matter what, we’re a family,” said Stark-Ragsdale about the penalty shootout.

Photo: Danny Kennedy
Sophomore goalkeeper Ethan Fitzsimmons made a crucial save in penalties to keep the Lions still in the match.

First to shoot their penalty, Emerson began the goals with Kopanezos netting his second of the game. MIT scored its penalty as well, tying the shootout at 1-1. 

The Lion’s weren’t as lucky with their second as MIT’s goalkeeper saved first-year forward Chirs Moulinos shot, hitting the left post after the block. However, the Engineers proved successful, with the shootout going 2-1 in favor of the visitors. 

Rich stood at the spot next and tied the shootout. Then, Lions’ sophomore goalkeeper Ethan Fitzsimmons saved the next penalty by MIT to keep Emerson in the running. 

The next two penalties were made, one by Emerson’s senior forward Phil Han, who didn’t play during the game but took the penalty. 

There’s guys who didn’t play in the game and they stepped up to score a penalty.” said Toulson. “That’s because [the team] believe[s] in each other.”