Dartmouth Draws Debut

Hanover — The Dartmouth College men’s soccer team fell into a 1-1 tie with Holy Cross on Saturday at Burnham Field. To hear Big Green goaltender Stefan Cleveland talk, however, his team should have walked off the damp turf with an opening-night victory.

With Dartmouth leading 1-0 and 13 minutes elapsed in the second half, Cleveland dove to his left to deflect a long, low shot from the opposite wing. The rebound caromed to the Crusaders’ Monty Sanders, who hammered a shot that Cleveland deflected with a kick save. The ball then bounced slowly past the right post, with a bear-crawling Cleveland in hot pursuit.

The sophomore dove with his arms outstretched, but couldn’t hold the ball, which bounced again and along the goal line. Just as Holy Cross’ Josh Cintas reached the scene, a Dartmouth defender cleared the ball out of the penalty area, but referee Jeffrey Rousseau was signaling goal even as it descended.

“It didn’t cross the line as far as I could tell,” said Cleveland, a Dayton, Ohio, native seeing his first college minutes. “There was nothing I could do about it. Yelling at the referee and complaining isn’t going to do anything, so you just have to get up and make the next save.”

Cleveland made seven of them, rewarding the faith of rookie coach Chad Riley, who picked him from among three backstops with no college experience. Riley was pleased with his netminder’s play, but only somewhat happy with that of his team.

“There were times we looked good and times we looked like we hadn’t trained yet,’’ said Riley, 31, a Big Green assistant last year who replaced 12th-year coach Jeff Cook in April. “We had some quality chances in the first half that we didn’t quite finish, but in a lot of ways it feels like the deserved result, which is frustrating.”

Dartmouth played the first 82 minutes without star forward Alex Adelabu, who had nine goals last season but recently strained a calf muscle. The junior came on late, but only had one truly dangerous run. The Big Green got a determined effort from veteran midfielder Colin Heffron, but seemed to miss the dynamic direction of Kevin Dzierzawski, an All-Ivy pick last fall who signed with a Scottish pro team last month and gave up his fourth year of NCAA eligibility.

Dartmouth took 11 of the game’s first 12 shots and opened the scoring in the 33rd minute when wide midfielder Robin Alnas blasted a long, soaring shot from the outer, left corner of the penalty area and inside the far post. Holy Cross (0-2-1) took the next 11 shots, although the Big Green finished with a 16-13 advantage.

“In the second half there was part where they were in our end the whole time,’’ Cleveland said. “It’s always disappointing when you tie, especially at home and especially when you were up.”

It could have been worse if Cleveland hadn’t saved a Sanders penalty kick five minutes after Holy Cross’ goal. He dove left to block the initial effort, then made a second save before a third shot sailed over the crossbar.

Dartmouth hosts perennial New England power Boston College on Monday. A victory would go a long way to getting Riley’s tenure off on the right foot, but the coach said he and his troops can’t get carried away with their early record.

“We have to use tonight as a tool to get a little bit better,” he said. “We want to get as many (victories) as we can, but September has to also be about getting ready for October” and the start of Ivy League play.

Notes: Rob Grabill, the Hanover High boys soccer coach and a former Big Green assistant, served as color analyst on the home internet broadcast. … Brendan Barth, a freshman midfielder listed at 5-feet-9 and 140 pounds, did not play. Barth played at Hanover. … Dartmouth plays its first four games at home. … Drew Galbraith, Dartmouth’s senior associate director for peak performance, is serving the second year of a four-year term as a member of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Committee. Committee duties include selection of postseason tournament participants, administration of the championships and other issues regarding the sport.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.