First-round failure

First-round failure

By Matt Nielsen

The men’s soccer team (8-10-2) lost for the first time in almost a month last night at George Mason (12-5-1) in Fairfax, Va. After an incredible winning streak propelled the Huskies to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) playoffs for the first time since joining the conference in 2005, NU couldn’t find the scoring touch against the Patriots, who, as the No. 4 seed, earned home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

The Patriots came out firing in the first half, out shooting the Huskies and keeping the ball in NU territory. Mason’s pressure paid off in the 25th minute, when junior forward Dan Ames slipped the ball past Northeastern’s freshman keeper Mahmoud Talaat off a pass from sophomore forward Lucas Pardew for the 1-0 lead.

“We started off a little bit slow,” junior forward Greg Kilkenny said, “but after that first goal we settled down and started to play well. We have some young guys, so there may have been some nerves involved.”

The game’s high stakes meant an increase in physicality and accordingly, five yellow cards were awarded throughout the game.

The second half was a closely contested affair, with both teams spending most of the time trading possession of the ball. However, as time began to run out on Northeastern’s season, the shots started to come. In the final 10 minutes, junior forwards Ahmed Talaat and Kilkenny each put a shot on goal, as did freshman midfielder Lars Okland. These three shots were as many as the Huskies had throughout the first eighty minutes. But, the Huskies couldn’t get the goal they needed to extend their season, losing 1-0.

“We were all over them in the second half, especially at the end,” Kilkenny said. “Besides the shots on goal, we had some other chances near the end, there. We were just a little off the pace.”

The Patriots outshot Northeastern 18-11 last night, including 10-6 shots on goal. Mahmoud Talaat saved 9 of 10 shots faced in another strong effort.

The game that got Northeastern into the CAA playoffs was a dominating performance at Parsons Field Friday against the No. 2 team in the conference, Hofstra.

Less than 20 minutes in, the Huskies scored what ended up being the go-ahead goal. Freshman midfielder Alexander Volk received a pass near the front of the net and shot one over the opposing keeper’s shoulder and off the crossbar. The ricochet went to Ahmed Talaat, who headed the ball past the helpless keeper for a 1-0 lead.

In the 25th minute, Volk headed the ball past Hofstra’s keeper to put the Huskies up 2-0. Sophomore defenseman Jonathan Batista assisted Volk on the goal. A few minutes into the second half, Volk added another goal, his sixth of the season, with an assist from Kilkenny.

With 15 minutes left to play and up 3-0, Kilkenny took a shot, which was deflected back to senior defender Daryl Brack. Brack dished it to Volk, who in turn passed it back to Kilkenny. The keeper came out to challenge Kilkenny, who skipped the ball toward the goal and hurdled the diving keeper. With nothing left between himself and the goal, Kilken-ny scored for the sixth time this season, tying Volk for the team lead.

Northeastern’s 4-0 win was its most lopsided victory since the last game of the 2002 season, when the Huskies routed America East conference rival Binghamton 5-0 at Parsons Field. Their six game winning streak to end the regular season was also an NU record.

“We couldn’t win a game in September,” Brack said, “but in October, it seems like we can’t drop a point.”

“It just came down to belief,” Kilkenny said. “Once we got that first win in conference we started to play with so much confidence.”

Head coach Brian Ainscough said he was impressed with his team’s focus during the regular season finale.

“It’s good to get into the playoffs with a win,” he said. “We didn’t want to back into the playoffs and spend the next few days wondering what went wrong. We didn’t want to depend on other teams to get us in. Now we can go down [to George Mason] with our heads held high.”

Volk’s two goals and two assists against Hofstra earned him CAA Player of the Week honors.

The Huskies enjoyed a fantastic late-season surge and made the postseason for the first time since 2003. Next year, Ainscough will look to Kilkenny and Talaat to lead a team full of young, talented players such as Volk, Okland, and Matthew Laning.

“In only his second year, he’s already taken us to the playoffs,” Kilkenny said of Ainscough. “We have so much respect for him, and it can only get better from here.”

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