Historic ride continues as Shoremen advance to Final Four

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – Washington College has crashed the party, upsetting three top-20 teams — including No. 2 University of Mary Washington on its home pitch — to reach the semifinals of the NCAA Division III men’s soccer tournament.

WC is one of four schools remaining in what started out as a 64-school tournament field — 41 slots dedicated to automatic qualifiers like Centennial Conference champion Johns Hopkins and the remaining 23 berths to at-large candidates chosen by the selection committee.

No. 18-ranked Washington (15-2-5), whose only two losses are to Johns Hopkins, received an at-large bid.

Of the other three national semifinalists, Washington & Lee (16-4-4) also received an at-large bid, while New England Small College Athletic Conference champion Amherst (17-2-3) and Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion St. Olaf (18-3-3) gained AQ berths.

Washington will face off against No. 11-ranked St. Olaf in the first game of the Final Four doubleheader on Friday, Dec. 1 at Roanoke College.

St. Olaf advanced to the national semifinals for the first time in program history with a 2-1 win over No. 21-ranked University of Chicago, the defending national champion.

The 2023 Shoremen, who include Kent County High School graduate Mayowa Taiwo of Chestertown, also are making program history as the first to play in a national semifinal.

Roy Dunshee, now in his 12th year as head coach, has labeled them as “soccer nerds.”

“They study the game and love to talk about tactics and strategies. This is really important, because they can think their way through matches rather than just relying on their coaches to give them answers,” Dunshee told The Evening Enterprise in an email Tuesday. “We will need to rely on that tactical sophistication when we get to the Final Four because those teams are all excellent.”

One of the hallmarks of this Washington team is that the players have been thoroughly unified in their commitment to each other. 

“They are fun and goofy,” Dunshee said in the email, “but they are quite serious about having each other’s backs and about their dedication to excellence.”

Washington punched its ticket to the Final Four with a 1-0 defeat of No. 7-ranked (and 2021 national champion) Connecticut College on Sunday, Nov. 19  in the quarterfinal round.

Chris Comber, whose penalty kick in a shoot-out sealed the win over host Kenyon College in the second round on Nov. 12, had the golden goal against Conn College.

During a scramble in the box off a Washington corner kick, the ball fell to the feet of Comber, who found open space in the 29th minute.

Dominic Miller initiated the cross that led to the goal. Taiwo, who had just entered the match, took the first shot. Peter Silvester made the initial stop, but Comber put back the rebound.

Comber has played all 2,000 minutes of this season.

In the first half, Washington dominated time of possession and on the scoreboard.

Conn College was unable to string together enough passes to get a shot at goal.

The tempo and tenor of the match was heightened in the second half.

While there had been a total of eight fouls in the first half, there were seven in just the first 15 minutes of the second half.

All told in the second half, there were 15 fouls.

Conn College was issued four yellow cards in the second half — five for the match — including two over the final three and a half minutes.

The Shoremen protected their one-goal lead with a swarming defense after intermission.

Trailing for the first time all weekend, Conn played with a greater sense of urgency in the second half. The Camels led 11-3 in shots, with five shots on frame, but were unable to get past Shore keeper Anthony Pinto.

Pinto (five saves) notched his ninth shutout of the season and lowered his goals-against average to 0.68.

Editor’s note: We initially reported, incorrectly, that Chris Comber’s penalty kick in a shoot-out sealed the upset of Mary Washington on Nov. 18.

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