Fans expecting a tense Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) men’s soccer final to match the drab November skies were treated to an impromptu fireworks display Saturday at St. Thomas.
The top-seeded Tommies exploded for five second-half goals in a 5-2 victory over No. 3 Macalester, clinching the MIAC’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament. St. Thomas improved to 19-1 with its 16th straight victory and became the first MIAC school to double as outright regular-season and tournament champions in consecutive years. Macalester finished 12-6-2 after surrendering five goals in a game for the first time since a 5-4 overtime loss to Simpson College on Oct. 1, 2000.
During the regular season, host Macalester held St. Thomas scoreless for 109 minutes, 49 seconds before senior Kevin Van Lieshout’s goal with 11 seconds remaining in the second overtime gave the visitors a 1-0 victory. In 2016, the Tommies defeated the Scots 1-0 during the regular season and again in the MIAC playoff final.
“It’s always tight,” said St. Thomas coach Jon Lowery. “Macalester is such a disciplined, well-coached team, it’s hard to find ways to hurt them. I’m shocked at the way today’s game broke, especially the second half.”
Macalester led 1-0 at halftime thanks to junior Clayton Smith’s goal at 35:54, but St. Thomas answered less than five minutes after the break. Senior Justin Oliver was credited with redirecting an aerial delivery from senior Alex Schnobrich that actually skimmed off of Macalester senior Colby King past onrushing junior goalkeeper Colton Wenig. Oliver scored again at 66:20, heading home a cross from senior Shae Bottum.
Van Lieshout’s header from a Schnobrich cross at 75:55 started a flurry of three goals in 84 seconds. Macalester pulled to within 3-2 on senior Jake Burke’s 28-yard free kick at 76:22, but less than a minute later, senior Christian Elliehausen restored the Tommies’ two-goal advantage by slotting home from just inside the 18-yard box. Senior Pierce Erickson assisted on Elliehausen’s goal then closed the scoring at 84:14 after a pass from junior Jonathan Acevedo.
“They’re the most talented Division III team that I’ve seen,” said sixth-year Macalester coach Gregg Olson. “Shae is the best player I’ve seen in the MIAC since I’ve been here. Then they’ve got the Oliver twins [Justin and Tyler] and Elliehausen. Pierce Erickson doesn’t even start for them, but he would start on every other MIAC team.”
Bottum left the game late in the second half with a separated right shoulder.
Macalester reached the final with a pair of 1-0 victories — Tuesday at home against No. 6 Carleton (10-8-1) and Wednesday at No. 2 Gustavus (13-6). St. Thomas advanced with Wednesday’s 3-0 home win over No. 4 Hamline (12-6-1).
The NCAA will announce the national tournament field during a live selection show on NCAA.com at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6.
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