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Bombers to face top seed in playoff appearance

After a somewhat tumultuous season that concluded with four straight losses, the men’s soccer team will soon compete in the postseason for the first time in three seasons.

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From left, Elmira College senior back Alston Eldridge defends Bombers junior back Dan Shirley during a game Saturday at Higgins Stadium. PARKER CHEN/THE ITHACAN

The fourth-ranked Bombers will play against Stevens Institute of Technology in the semifinals of the Empire 8 Conference Tournament tomorrow in Hoboken, N.J.
The Blue and Gold lost a regular season matchup against the Ducks by a score of 1-0 on Oct. 15. The Bombers surrendered the game’s only goal in the first half.

Junior midfielder Ryan Norland said the match was closely contested and Stevens Institute of Technology converted the only good chance the Bombers gave them.

“They had one opportunity, and they scored it when we played them,” he said. “It was a good game, and during the second half we were after them.”

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The Ducks maintained a perfect 6–0 conference record and finished with an overall record of 14–2 on their way to the regular season title. They have outscored their opponents 36–14 and have a 13-game winning streak dating back to Sept. 10.

The South Hill squad, meanwhile, has had its struggles. The team has scored just 14 goals to their opponents’ 23 heading into Friday’s playoff contest. It lost the opportunity for the third seed on the final day of the regular season Saturday when it gave up two late goals in a 2-1 loss to the Elmira College Soaring Eagles.

Despite the  odds being stacked in the Ducks’ favor, the Blue and Gold’s players said they know what they have to do to secure a victory in the tournament’s semifinals.

Head Coach Andy Byrne said solid defense along with dominating time of possession and executing scoring opportunities will help the team win tomorrow’s game.

“We’re going to have to defend well,” he said. “We’re going to have to move the ball quickly and accurately, and we’re going to have to finish chances that we get.”

Senior center back Matt Anthony said the team knew it would have to face Stevens Institute of Technology at some point, so it must realize that the Ducks are not invincible.

“We just have to go out there and play well,” he said. They’re beatable.”

Norland said the team is going into the game with more confidence than they have in past games.

“We’re not going to go into the game with an underdog philosophy, because when you do that, a lot of times you play at your lowest potential,” he said. “We need to go in knowing we can beat them.”

Byrne said the Bombers will win tomorrow’s game if they play with the same energy as they did in the regular season.

“We gave them a good game when we played down there during the season, and hopefully we can bring the same intensity again and see if we can get the victory,” he said.

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