Story by Peyton Doyle and Josh Chaskes
BROOKLINE — Soccer is a game of two halves, and sometimes those two halves can feel radically different. That was certainly the case in Northeastern’s 2-1 win over William & Mary. The Huskies started slowly in the first half and were down early, but came flying back to win the game at the last second and in dramatic fashion.
The Huskies played fast and hard early in the game, with graduate defender Ahriá Simons receiving a yellow card in only the second minute after a tough challenge. They managed to put together some impressive attacks though, winning two corner kicks in quick succession.
The feeling of the game changed rapidly, though, when in the 12th minute senior midfielder Alexander Levengood put William & Mary up 1-0, off an assist from senior forward Diba Nwegbo.
The tone of the game shifted after the early goal, and the two sides were locked in a battle in midfield. Both teams committed fouls and received free kicks, but neither could break down the other side’s back line. Senior defender Theo Biddle stood strong for William & Mary, heading clear any balls played into the box and providing the ball for his midfield, with graduate defender Ole Kjørholt playing a similar role for Northeastern.
The introductions of junior forward Harry Sankey and senior forward Ryan Massoud provided a much needed spark for Northeastern through the middle and end of the first half, but they were unable to break the deadlock and went into the halftime break still down 1-0.
The Huskies came out firing at the start of the second half, flying around the pitch and hunting for more opportunities like those they picked out in the first. Head coach Rich Weinrebe spoke after the game about his tactical discussions during the break.
“I just talked to them about how we needed to attack certain areas of the field, making quicker decisions and put more pressure on them,” Weinrebe said. “The guys responded, and did exactly what we were supposed to and somehow we were able to manufacture a couple of goals”
While the Huskies didn’t assault the Tribe with corners like they did in the first half, they still outshot their opponents 7-3.
Two of the most impressive players for Northeastern in the second half were freshman forward Fraser Brown and freshman midfielder Morris Matthews. Weinrebe discussed their importance to his team’s second half success.
“Fraser has been playing great so it was about rotating those guys up there and getting him into the game in that second half when he’s fresh and cause some problems,” Weinrebe said. “With Morris there was a little bit of fatigue from the other guys and he is an incredible passer and has that great long throw. You’re able to get good passing rage from him and get balls into great areas.”
Matthews’ throws became particularly important in the game’s final 20 minutes or so, when graduate defender Ahria Simons was subbed off for the Huskies. Matthews replaced Simons’ role on the long throws and sent several dangerous balls into the box, including one that ended up as the equalizer.
Following the goal from sophomore Tobias Wangerud, the dogs doubled down, badgering every Tribe player that got near a ball and putting all of the pressure onto their opponents.
In the final minutes Weinrebe even decided to bring forward his keeper, redshirt junior Colby Hegarty, to try and make a difference on set pieces. With a minute left the game was still tied at one and both sides were desperately looking for a game winner.
On the final play of the game, Morris sent a ball to the left side of the box. It bounced off of graduate defender Omar Da Naia directly to the feet of Kjørholt. Kjørholt then tapped the ball back to Da Naia who drove it past Nikcevic with just 2.6 seconds remaining for his first career goal and the winner for his squad. He was mobbed by his teammates after time expired, and climbed into the stands to embrace his mother.
Weinrebe discussed just how important Da Naia, Kjørholt and the rest of his seniors have been to his squad, following their victory on senior day.
“[The seniors] have been great, because I feel like sometimes those guys are the hardest to get on board and buy in because they’ve been through it all,” Weinrebe said. “They’ve been amazing, they,ve been receptive, open, and they welcomed me as a part of their family. They’re really been fantastic in every way.”
The game was a must win for Northeastern who faced elimination from the postseason with a loss. While the victory was left to the last minute, it’s nothing they’re not used to.
“It’s kind of funny,” Weinrebe said. “It feels like we’ve been doing this all year. Late goals, and no quit. We’re kings of the comeback I guess and I’m just really proud of the team.”
Following the victory, Northeastern has sole possession of the last CAA Tournament spot, sitting 6th in the standings. If they can beat the basement dweller Delaware next Saturday, Oct. 29, they will secure their first back to back postseason trips since 2014.
The Huskies square off again next Saturday in the regular-season finale at Delaware. Stay tuned to WRBB for postseason Huskies coverage.