Can Anyone Beat Williams?: Women’s Soccer Weekend Preview 9/23

Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome another new writer to the fold! Andrew Martin is a first year at Wesleyan, and he’ll be doing a lot of work with the newer sports for our coverage (Soccer and Hockey.) Andrew really like pina coladas and dancing in the rain.

One of the nation’s best women’s soccer conferences is back for its 2017 campaign. Perennial powerhouse Williams College is already off to a perfect season. Squads like Wesleyan and Colby look to bounce back after a tough stretch of league-play last year and uneven starts this season. And all this while Tufts, Bowdoin, and Conn seek to ascend from the middle of the pack to the upper-echelon of the conference. Forget all the speculation, anything can happen in the ‘Cac, and the season is already in full-swing. Let’s check out the games this weekend.

September 23, 2017:

Trinity (Conference: 0-3-0, Overall: 1-4-0) vs. Colby (Conference: 0-2-1, Overall: 2-2-1) (11:00 A.M., Waterville, ME)

Olivia Greif
Olivia Greif ’21 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Both the Bantams and the Mules seek their first conference win in the 2017 season. Colby comes off a 3-0 defeat at the hands of conference-leader Williams. However, there is a bright spot for Colby in the form of Olivia Greif ‘21. Greif ranks third in the NESCAC in points, goals, and assists. With only one conference goal thus far, the Mules need to start generating some offense to have any shot at competing with the conference’s elite, and Greif is the biggest key to that struggle. Similarly, Trinity comes into play with zero conference goals. Keeper Julia Pitino ‘18 ranks fourth in the NESCAC in saves. Although it’s tough to categorize this game as a must win for both teams so early in the season, going winless into the third weekend is incredibly hard to come back from.

Hamilton (Conf: 1-2-1, Overall: 2-2-1) vs. Connecticut College (Conf: 2-0-1, League: 4-0-1) (11:30 A.M., New London, CT)

Michelle Medina
Michelle Medina ’18 (Courtesy of Connecticut College Ahtletics)

Hamilton comes into this weekend coasting off of a 1-0 win over the Bantams. The biggest reason for that win was keeper Emily Dumont ‘18, who ranks second in the NESCAC in saves. With three conference goals at this point in the season, it’s clear that the Continentals can generate offense, but to move into the top-three teams in the league, Dumont has to continue to be a rock in between the pipes. The Camels have nothing but confidence without a loss in the conference or overall play yet. Part of that reason is Michelle Medina ‘18, who leads the team with three of its five goals. Connecticut College could be the sleeper team to win the NESCAC this year, but before they think of Williams, they have to defeat Hamilton.

Amherst (Conf: 1-1-0, Overall 3-2-0) vs. Williams (Conf: 4-0-0, Overall: 5-0-0) (12:00, Williamstown, MA)

Olivia Barnhill
Olivia Barnhill ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

When asking a Williams/Amherst player if they had a successful season, a single question determines 90% of the answer: did you beat Williams/Amherst. The upset loss to Trinity in the playoffs last year surprised us all, but the Ephs were ready to, as Big Sean put it, ‘bounce back’. Even though the loss of 2016 NESCAC POY Kristi Kirshe was a major blow to the Eph’s defense, Williams has already flown off to an incredible start. Led by 2016 2nd team all NESCAC keeper Olivia Barnhill ‘19, the Ephs strong defense acts as a complement to its dominant offense. Amherst, in contrast, hasn’t had such a stellar season so far. Sitting in the middle of the pack in the NESCAC, a win at Williams’ homecoming could provide enough momentum to push them up to the top of the league. If they pick up a win, but don’t win the ‘Cac, I’m sure they’ll still deem the season as a success.

Middlebury (Conf: 1-1-1, Overall: 3-1-1) vs. Bowdoin (Conf: 0-2-1, Overall: 1-2-1) (12:00 P.M., Brunswick, MA)

Eliza Van Voorhis
Eliza Van Voorhis ’21 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

This game could be a season-changer for both the Panthers and Polar Bears. Ascending from the middle of the NESCAC is always tough, but a conference win (and a conference loss) is pivotal for both teams. Middlebury comes into play with as many goals for as goals against, an equilibrium that coincides with their win-loss record. Eliza Van Voorhis (‘21) leads the Panthers in goals, but there has been scoring contributions from the rest of a stellar first year class as well. Eliza Robinson ’18 and Leah Salzman ’18 have both contributed to Middlebury’s offense as well. Bowdoin is led by Nikki Wilson (‘18), who had two goals in their opener, but the whole team has struggled since then. They have no players in the top five of any offensive/defensive statistical categories in the NESCAC. Traveling from NESCAC’s mediocre to its elite is tough, but it starts with this game for both teams.

Bates (Conf: 1-0-0, Overall: 2-1-0) vs. Wesleyan (Conf: 0-1-1, Overall: 2-1-1)  (11:00 P.M., Middletown, CT)

Kinsey Yost
Kinsey Yost ’19 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

The Bobcats look to stay perfect in conference play when they travel to Middletown to play the  Cardinals. Wesleyan looks to snatch that first conference win of the season after a tough tie to Bowdoin last weekend. Led by star defender Kinsey Yost ‘19, the Cards only have two goals against in conference play, but need to generate some offense to be successful. Emily Ribatt ‘21 has been the energizer bunny for the team with her speed and ball skills, but the Cardinals need to start putting the balls in the back of the net in conference play. Bates, on the other hand, has only played one conference game– squeaking out a 1-0 against Hamilton two weeks ago. It’s tough to determine with Bates’ limited sample size how this game will play out, but expect a defensive game with a couple bounces determining the outcome.

Other Conference Games This Weekend (9/23):

September 24, 2017:

Bates vs. Williams (12:00 P.M., Williamstown, MA)

Connecticut College vs. Amherst (2:00 P.M., Amherst, MA)

2017 Standings (as of 9/19/2017):

(Almost)Taking the Head Off the Jumbo: Week 1 Power Rankings:

1: Trinity (1-0)

Trinity now runs its winning streak to 10 games going back to 2015 following a blow out win over Colby. They were expected crush them and played nearly flawlessly, but still could improve. QB Sonny Puzzo’s INT should’ve come as a shock to the Bantams, but other than that, they played great football. Max Chipouras decimated the Colby defense and this team looks primed to blow out Bates in week two. The secondary looked great following the graduation of many All-NESCAC players, and that was the biggest hole. There’s honestly not a whole lot else to say, the Bantams are rolling.

2: Middlebury (1-0)

Jared Lebowitz and the Panthers couldn’t have started off 2017 in better fashion as they knocked off a top tier team, learned about numerous first year weapons, and didn’t totally screw up on special teams. Without RBs Diego Meritus and Will McKissick, Peter Scibilla ’21 took the reins on the ground and was serviceable, but not great. Once the other running weapons return (Meritus should be back this week), the ground game will drastically improve, making Midd even more dangerous. Their receivers are the best in the league and that isn’t open for debate. Not player by player necessarily, but between Maxim Bochman ’20 who went off on Saturday in his first year shot, 2016 breakout Conrad Banky, athletic freak three sport college athlete Frankie Cosolito, and All-American track runner and special teams player of the week Jimmy Martinez, there are so many options for the already established Lebowitz. Opposing secondaries, watch out.

Middlebury’s Ian Blow downs a punt at Wesleyan’s one yard line last Saturday.

3: Amherst (1-0)

There are still some questions for the Mammoths despite their win over the weak looking Bates team last weak. When will Reece Foy come back and how good will he be when he does? If he isn’t healthy, is Ollie Eberth ’21 the real deal? Why am I so bummed that Mike Odenwaelder didn’t have a bigger role? Granted, not all of these questions are bad, and Amherst has an answer to all of them, resulting in their placement barely below Midd on these rankings. Foy was in uniform last weekend and should be back in week two, but even if he doesn’t start, Eberth looked good and had a real connection with Craig Carmelani in the air. Odenwaelder is still raw as a football player and played on special teams, although I still hope he breaks out as a tight end. Jack Hickey was great in his limited action (5 carries, 9.4 yds/carry) and should see more time against Hamilton. I would like to see a better rush defense from the Mammoths as they allowed two TDs to Bates, but Hamilton’s game isn’t running. They should outlast the Continentals and will only get better from here.

4: Wesleyan (0-1)

Some Jumbo fans might be mad that the Cardinals are in this spot, but they simply played a better team in Middlebury and had a solid game. Mark Piccirillo didn’t get off to a fantastic start with two INTs but still threw for four TDs and 432 yards. Dario Highsmith performed poorly in his limited sample size, but the large deficit in the first quarter leading to a passing offense was not a product of him. The Panther receivers simply dominated the Cardinal secondary and while no team is arguably as deep in their receiving core as Midd, Ben Thaw and Elias Camacho will need to pick up the slack against Tufts. We learned last year not to read too much into Wesleyan’s week on result after they lost to Tufts, so I’m going to stick with them as my favorite against the Jumbos, but they are in a must win scenario.

5: Tufts (1-0)

While they were manage to pull out the win in week one, it seemed pretty flukey. Backup QB Ryan Hagfeldt entered the game on the final drive in a tie game in the fourth quarter after an injury to starter Ryan McDonald and landed on his own fumble to score the game winning touchdown. McDonald had a solid game with 26 completions and two TDs and 92 yards rushing, but his status for week two against Wesleyan is up in the air. Their linebackers and DBs didn’t play well and will need to step it up against what is a better QB in Mark Piccirillo. Their ‘bad’ game was as much a product of their own poor play as it was Hamilton’s breakout game, and the Continentals deserve a lot of credit. Tufts will be fine and still found a way to win which is what good programs do. The Jumbos could still be a top tier team this year, but they still lack a Chance Brady. They simply aren’t the same team as last year simply as a product of not having an all world RB, and Dominic Borelli is not even close. Andrew Sanders will be the X-Factor in week two as he has the biggest play potential. Whether it is Hagfeldt or McDonald, the QB won’t be a big issue as the two were in competition to begin the year anyways.

6: Hamilton (0-1)

At the end of the day Hamilton is still winless, however, they made a big challenge to move towards the top tier of the conference in week one. An OT finish after a furious fourth quarter comeback, led by an incredible performance from QB Kenny Gray (370 yards passing, 4 TDs, 0 INT) would have resulted in glory if not for Tufts QB Ryan Hagfeldt recovering his own fumble in the end zone for a TD on fourth down. The Continentals were on the Jumbo’s seven yard line in OT before turning the ball over to end the game, but should still be epically proud of their performance. As a win/lose game goes, no team is happy with a loss, but Hamilton prove to be the real deal if they can manage a close game or win this weekend against Amherst.

7: Williams (1-0)

I’m sure some Ephs fans are upset that they are so far down the rankings after an undefeated start, they did play a weak opponent. Nobody is awestruck that Williams pulled out a win, especially Pete, who called it. There were a host of positives for this team though as they found their first win in over a year, found a QB in Bobby Malmaron ’21, a top receiver in Frank Stola ’21, and saw a breakout performance from RB Connor Harris who had the best game of his college career. Malmaron even kicked off once and Stola returned the punts, showing that this two headed monster, if they are the real deal, should roll over the Colby Mules on the road this weekend. A 2-0 start for the Williams Ephs? When was the last time we predicted that?

8: Bates (0-1)

I’ve always liked the way Coach Harriman runs and recruits the Bates offense as they are the only team so run oriented and with so many slot players. They have a lot of play action passes to open things up, but showed that too few play making receivers leads to a lack of big play potential. QB Sandy Plashkes is in his second year as the starter and was able to find just nine yards for his biggest completion and just 44 in the air total. While he was able to make a dent in opposing defenses by breaking off some big runs in 2016, he rushed for a total of zero yards on twelve tries last Saturday. Ouch. Sure, not all of them were designed runs, but he’s got to make a big play in one area of the offense. Matt Golden’s one completion of 33 yards nearly matched Plashkes’ total, and that should scare the junior signal caller as he needs to step it up against Trinity or he could lose his job. RB Tyler Baum was one of the lone positives as he was able to break off a 42 yard rush at the end of the first half, and could see more carries this week. The Bobcats did play a tough opponent in Amherst, but without their starting QB, and got roughed up by a first year who found the end zone four times as new DB starters Coy Candelario and Jack Maritz were not able to fill the big holes left by Sam Francis and Mark Upton from 2016’s secondary

.9: Bowdoin (0-1)

Losing to one of the teams that didn’t win in 2016 isn’t the start the Polar Bears were looking for. While the Ephs did look much improved, Bowdoin still allowed 439 yards on defense and flat out were beaten. Noah Nelson tried to salvage his lackluster passing day with his two rushing scores, but was still only able to tally 111 yards in the air, with Nick Vallas’ 46 receiving yards the tops on the team. They weren’t able to score fast enough with their style of play and allowed two Williams’ first year players to smoke them on defense. Ejaaz Jiu, Nick Vallas, and Bo Millet were my favorite offensive playmakers for this team heading into the season and as a result of Nelson’s paltry passing, none were able to make a big impact. Look for Vermont high school legend Griff Stalcup ’21 to see some more snaps this weekend, especially if they get down early, and hopefully he will find the diamonds in the rough in the receiving core. Chris Markisz looks to have successfully lost the starting RB or 1b rushing role as he managed just 1.8 yds/carry, putting the ball in Nate Richam’s hands more this week. The offense might look different this weekend against and they need to find small victories in what is likely to be a blow out against Middlebury.

Williams’ Frank Stola makes a Bowdoin defender miss and heads towards yards after a catch.

10: Colby (0-1)

While the Mules did face the league’s toughest opponent in week one, since they didn’t score a point I didn’t have much choice in this rank. Obviously they have some work to do as their defense was torched on the ground by Max Chipouras. This is as much a credit to Chipouras as it is a lack of credit to Colby’s run D. The top two Bantam backs averaged almost nine yards per carry on Saturday, and the Mules had just four tackles for losses. They had several bright spots though as they managed to recover two fumbles and Patrick Yale ’20 was able to pick off Puzzo. Their offense was no better though as they were just 1/15 on third down conversions, and threw for 119 yards in the losing effort. Their run game was OK as Jake Schwern’s 4.5 yards per carry weren’t a huge issue, but 73 yards passing from the starting QB is. They need to figure out how to find some completions to move the chains on third down and then they will have a better chance against the weaker teams.

Catching Up To the World: 2017 NESCAC Soccer Preview

Editor’s Note: I’m VERY excited to have two welcomes to make in this note. First, we have to welcome Peter Delalio to the NbN. Peter is a rising junior on the Wesleyan baseball team, and enjoys moonlit strolls and peanut butter. Secondly, we get to welcome men’s soccer to the list of sports to which we give that special NbN shine. We’re very excited to be a step closer to our ultimate goal of covering every sport in the CAC, but the main obstacle to that is writers. So if you want to start covering soccer (or any other sport,) email nothingbutnescac@gmail.com. Alright let’s get to the article.

Fall is back, and it’s time for the World’s most popular sport to return to NESCAC play, and make its debut on NbN. NESCAC has become one of the better soccer leagues in the country, consistently sending multiple teams to the NCAA tournament, so we should be geared up for an entertaining 2017 in the soccer world.

Amherst

Weller Hlinomaz
Weller Hlinomaz ’18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

A nationally ranked team and defending champion of the league. Amherst has certainly proven its moxie with its impactful play over the past few years. In conference games last year, the Mammoths led the league in goals in what developed into a display of offensive prowess and sheer dominance, averaging 2.3 goals per game in conference. Leading the attack this year will be Weller Hlinomaz ’18 and midfielder Dane Lind ’20; both will be in charge of filling in for some key losses due to graduation. On the defensive side of the ball, Amherst will be returning senior goalkeeper Lee Owen ’18. The Mammoths will have an early test of their defensive ability seeing as they return only two of their defenders from last year. The defending champs will seek to prove that their young guns can get the job done as they open up play against Bowdoin at home.

Bates

Nate Merchant and the Bates men's soccer team fell 1-0 in a hard-fought final match of the season on Oct. 26, 2016 at Garcelon Field. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
Nate Merchant ’18 (9) will look to give the Bobcats a boost this year.

The Bobcats squad will need to strengthen their play against NESCAC opponents for a successful campaign this season. First things first, they will look to bolster their less than adequate defense from last season to combat the offensive powerhouses throughout the conference. Bates ranked last in conference play last year in goals against, coming in at an average of 1.72 goals per game. This makes their attack that much less effective knowing that other teams will be pressuring their defense constantly. Luckily for Bates, they return experienced defenders in Antonio Heredia Soto ’20, Max Watson ’18, Julien Williamson ’20, and goalkeeper Robbie Montanaro ’19. Hopefully these four will be able to provide the backbone that this Bobcats team needs. Offensively, Bates will rely on Nate Merchant ‘18 and Eric Opuku ’20. We will see if these two can get the Bobcats off on the right foot when they take on Hamilton in the opening weekend.

 Bowdoin 
Moctar Niang
Moctar Niang ’19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

One of Bowdoin’s biggest strengths in the 2016 season was their ability to score. Fortunately for the Polar Bears, and unfortunately for their opponents, they are returning their top goal scorer Moctar Niang ’19. He tallied a total of 13 points, scoring 6 goals to go along with 1 assist. Speaking of assists, the Bowdoin squad also brings back leadership in Ethan Ellsworth ‘18, who tallied a team high 6 assists; when coupled with his 4 goals for the season, he also led the team in points. Leadership will be a crucial ingredient for a successful team this year. Along with Ellsworth, the Polar Bears return midfielders Wilson MacMillan ’19, Sam Ward ’19, and goalie Stevie Van Siclen ’19. Hopefully this senior group has what it takes to get their team to that next level, as they will look to improve on their NESCAC semifinal finish last season.

 Colby

The Colby team definitely had their struggles last year, finishing second to last in conference. The Mules are hoping for a bounce back year, and hopefully their resurgence can be fueled by offense. Out of the 11 conference teams, Colby finished tied for last in goals scored versus its NESCAC opponents. Kyle Douglas ’19 led the Mules last year in goals scored with 3, so he and the rest of the team need to find a way to break through their low ceiling and exceed their competitions’ expectations. Colby has the majority of their roster returning this year, losing only two players to graduation. This experience will serve only to benefit the Mules, and they perhaps might even surprise a few teams.

Conn

Ben Manoogian
Ben Manoogian ’19 (courtesy of Connecticut College Athletics)

The Camels had a solid season last year, finishing tied for 4th in conference play. However, they will be losing their top goal threat and points leader, so the younger forwards will have to carry the burden of filling some gaps. Juniors Chris Lockwood ’19 and Ben Manoogian ‘19 will seek to lead the Camel offense. Scoring a combined 13 goals a season ago, these two need to remain productive on the attack. Leading assist man Ousmane Dieng ’18 will add a much-needed balance to the offense, and might even add a couple more goals himself. Defensively, the Camels will look to replace a graduated goalie, but will return defensive stalwarts Nate Summers ’18 and Tyler Hoadley ’19 to help make that transition all that much more smooth for the new keeper.

 Middlebury

The big story for the Panthers this season is the announcement of long-time coach David Saward’s retirement at the conclusion of this season (assistant Alex Elias ’08 will take over). He will have spent 33 years at the helm of the men’s soccer program, but hopefully this will not distract the players from the goal at hand (Editor’s second Note: nice one Pete.) Middlebury seeks to return to their former glory days as national champions just under a decade ago, but seeing how they finished 6th in the conference last season, they certainly have their work cut out for them. A key for the Panthers this year will be maintaining their high level of play against conference opponents. They averaged 1.8 goals per game outside of NESCAC games, and just .9 in them. Middlebury has shown that they can create chances with returners like Daniel O’Grady ’19 and Drew Goulart ’20, so they are definitely capable of finding the back of the net. Peter Davis ’19 will lead their defense, and will attempt to stymie Conn in the opening weekend.

(Editor’s Final Note: Look at this sweet goal from Middlebury sophomore Shams Mohajerani. #3 on the Sportscenter Top Ten!)

Tufts

Gavin Tasker
Gavin Tasker ’20 netted the game winner in Tuft’s opener against Babson. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

The defending national champs have a huge target on their back coming into this season. They received the #1 overall ranking in the country, so they definitely have a lot to live up to. In conference play last season, the Jumbos managed to score 16 goals while giving up only 6. Tufts returns playmakers Dexter Eichhorst ’18 and Kevin Halliday ’18, who will aim to facilitate scorer Gavin Tasker ’20. It is worth noting that the Jumbos will be losing their top point scorer and their reliable barrier of a keeper, but they certainly have the means to fill in those gaps. The Jumbos are expected to have another strong campaign, and will aim to give their home fans plenty to cheer about in their first conference matchup against Colby.

Wesleyan

The Cardinals’ 2016 season was certainly not up to their usual standards. They finished last in conference, and let too many games get away from them. Wesleyan has shown they are capable of beating the best, however, as they defeated Amherst in 2015 and Tufts last season, both of whom went on to win the national championship. Their defense will surely need to improve, which becomes much easier when you have lockdown players like Teddy Lyons ’19, Nick Jackson ’18, and Camden McCusker ’19 to help out. These guys will be the key to starting the offense. Up front for the Cardinals, seniors Adam Cowie-Haskell ’18 and Garrett Hardesty ’18 will lead the attack, while junior Komar Martinez-Paiz ’19 will return from injury and prove why he was so sorely missed a season ago. The Cardinals get their season started at Bowdoin a week from this Saturday.

Williams

Mark Cisco-Tolomeo ’18 (23) is the key to the Williams offense this season.

The Ephs had a pleasant 2016 season. They finished 3rd in the conference, scoring 17 goals and letting up only 11 against NESCAC opponents. Williams now wants to jump to the next level, and to do so, they must strengthen their defense. The Ephs are losing 6 of their starting 11 from last year, meaning that the younger guys must step up. Tobias Muellers ‘18 and Sean Dory ’19 must remain reliable on the back end of the squad. These two will be responsible for setting the tone against opponents, and will give confidence to their offense. One man on the offensive side of the ball, who will be huge for the success of this team, is senior striker Mark Sisco-Tolomeo ’18. He was tied for the lead in goals scored from last season, and will hope to progress even more.

Hamilton

After a deep run into the playoffs a season ago, the Continentals will look to build on their success as they start conference play against Bates in the opening weekend. Hamilton will depend on senior Matt Cerveny ’18 to carry the load, who will be thrust into a leadership position after having lost key players to graduation. As a team that has lost goal threats, the Continentals will need to be strong defensively; this burden will be taken on by senior Eli Lichtman ’18, a seasoned vet who will provide much needed experience to this young squad. Hamilton has a great foundation to build upon, allowing only 10 goals while scoring 13. If they wish to repeat another far run into the playoffs, the Continentals must keep up their gritty play this season.

Trinity

 This season, the Bantams are going to need to find a way to generate offense. Having scored the 3rdleast goals in conference play a year ago, and also losing their top 3 points scorers to graduation, Trinity will have to rely on sophomore Henry Farr ’20 to create the chances. Having started in only 7 of the Bantams’ 17 games, Farr was still able to grab 7 points coming off the bench. On defense, Trinity will look to Alex Steel ’19 and Michael Burns ’20 to turn the tide and be the reliable backs this Bantams team so desperately need. Trinity opens up NESCAC play against Williams in the opening weekend.

The King Stay The King: 2017 Trinity Football Preview

2016 Record: 8-0

Projected 2017 Record: 8-1

Projected Offensive Starters (*Nine Returning)

QB: Sonny Puzzo ‘18*

RB: Max Chipouras ‘19*

WR: Will Connery ‘20

WR: Bryan Vieira ‘18*

WR: John Spears ‘19

TE: Matt Hirshman ‘18*

LT: Chris Simmons ‘18*

LG: Sam Bowtell ‘19*

C: Steve O’Reilly ‘19* 

RG: Joe Farrah ‘18*

RT: Austin Baiardi ‘*20

Projected Defensive Starters (*Seven Returning)

DE: Nick Rose ‘19*

DT: Matt D’Andrea ‘18*

DT: Brandon Blaise ’18*

DE: Corey Jean-Jacques ‘19

OLB: Dago Picon-Roura ’19*

MLB: Liam Kenneally ‘18*

OLB: Shane Libby ‘19*

CB: John Medina ’19*

SS: Edosa Onaiwu ‘19

FS: Sameir Madden ‘19

CB: Dominique Seagears ‘18

Projected Specialists (*Two Returning)

PK: Eric Sachse ’19*

P: Ian McDonald ’20*

KR/PR: John Spears ‘19

Summary:

Image result for trinity football
Trinity’s swarming defense keyed their championship run last year, as shown by their attempts to shut down Tufts star RB Chance Brady last year. This picture specifically, of course, is Hamilton trying to tackle Brady, but I’m sure Trinity tried as well.

Coach Devanney and the Bantams will look to defend their title with more authority this season with the longer schedule, offering a more universal ring than 2016. Although they lose several key members of the championship squad, they have the overwhelming majority of important players back for a return run at glory, including potentially the NESCAC’s best running back in Max Chipouras. The entire offensive line returns, giving quarterback (and fake name given by a celebrity at a hotel Sonny Puzzo ’18) exceptional protection to work with the less experienced receivers. And most of the D-Line returns as well, which means plenty of pressure on the opposing QBs.

On offense, the returners are guard Joe Farrah, center Steve O’Reilly, tackle Chris Simmons, tackle Austin Baiardi, and guard Sam Bowtell. The returning defensive linemen are guard Nick Rose, and nose tackle Matt D’Andrea. Corey Jean-Jacques and Brandon Blaise should look to step up into bigger starting roles this season as tackles on the line after splitting time in 2016. The linebackers, led by Liam Kenneally, also return Shane Libby on the outside and Henderson Watkins on the inside. Dago Picon-Roura should see time in both the first and second tier of the defense. The only real holes to fill are the skill positions.

Receivers and DBs were big pieces in the team a year ago. However, Coach Devanney is confident that John Spears and Brian Vieira can shoulder the load at receiver with Puzzo’s reliable arm supplying the ammunition. Spears will be an improved weapon simply because of the consistency of the O-Line, giving him time to develop his routes after less preseason action than usual with the lack of a scrimmage. Vieira will need to lead the way for Puzzo, and Spears has limited experience over the course of his first two years in the league.

First year players will play a big role in the depth of the team. Only eight of 14 corners and safeties who saw action in 2016 will be back and those eight all saw the playing field in a limited capacity. Spencer Donahue left a huge hole for John Medina to fill and Coach Deveanney stressed how he will be the main piece who will need to make an impact. Joining Medina as a starter in the secondary should be junior Sameir Madden who saw action in six games as a sophomore last season. I mentioned in my preview of Trinity last year how they had the NESCAC’s version of the ‘Legion of Boom,’ the nickname for the Seahawks secondary following their 2011 emergence. They will not have quite the same dominance that they wrought on opposing offenses anymore, however, they will likely compete near the top of the conference in this section. They could have the most lethal QB/RB combo in the ‘CAC though, similar to the Drew Brees/LaDainian Tomlinson combo of the Chargers in 2004. The Bantams also return both their punter Ian McDonald and place kicker Eric Sachse who were perfect one year ago, both looking to make an all-conference impact, leading what could also be one of the best special team pairs, second only to Amherst.

Offensive MVP: RB Max Chipouras ‘19

Max Chipouras full bio
Max Chipouras ’19 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

After being named USA College Football Division III Rookie All American and the NESCAC Rookie of the Year in 2015, Max Chipouras ran for nearly 300 more yards in his second season. Chipouras looks to continue his dominance of the NESCAC gridiron in his third campaign after earning All-NESCAC First Team honors last fall. His 910 yards, 5.8 yards per carry, and eight touchdowns will likely be eclipsed once more. 

 

Defensive MVP: LB Liam Kenneally ‘18

Liam Kenneally
Liam Kenneally ’18 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

After losing many key members of the defense, nearly all coming from the secondary, Kenneally will be the center of the Bantam defense in the linebacking core. He should lead the second tier for Trinity as he was second on the team with 44 tackles and led the team with six sacks. However, he will also assume a good deal of coverage responsibilities due to the multiple defensive backs who graduated.

 

Big Shoes to Fill: CB John Medina ‘19

John Medina
John Medina ’19 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Despite the lack of returners in the secondary for Trinity, John Medina should be a good candidate to replace stud graduate Spencer Donahue who dominated the NESCAC for four years. Medina will be the main piece looking to make an impact in the defensive skill positions as he had a pair of picks and played in all eight games in 2016.

Biggest Game: at. Amherst, November 4th, 1:00 PM

While the eighth game, for the first time in decades, is no longer the last game of the schedule, Amherst should be a championship contender in 2017 and this match up could well crown the winner of the NESCAC. The runner-up game for Trinity would be week nine against Wesleyan, but if Reece Foy ’18 comes back for the Mammoths as experts (me) predict, then this should be a barn burner.

Best Tweet:

There were a host of tweets that could’ve made the cut here. The Indianapolis Colts visited the Coop to check out some of the Bantams and Trinity retained their spot as the best football team in Connecticut. However, the one that drew my attention the most was one that questioned their own QB Sonny Puzzo’s loyalty. The Caldwell High (NJ) alumnus was featured in an article that showed him as he threw some passes in a practice session to the New York Giants’ Dwayne Harris. The tweet shows how despite his supposed Jets loyalties, he still tried to help the cross town NY Giants on their quest to beat the Pats in yet another Super Bowl.

https://twitter.com/TrinFootball/status/892170193472016385

 

Return of the ‘CAC (Sports Blog): General Welcome Back and The NESCAC Ninth Game

The first order of business here is to welcome all of you back to another great year of NESCAC sports! The offseason always feels long for us, and this one was made even longer by the departure of our fearless leader Rory Ziomek. You can read his farewell article here and we want to thank him again for continuing what Adam and Joe started and making NbN into what it is today. We wish Rory all the luck in the world as he moves onto his next position; the elephant poop collector in a traveling circus.

But seriously, we’re really excited to bring you another year of NESCAC coverage. We’ll of course keep up with football, basketball and baseball, but will be trying to continue to grow our women’s soccer and basketball coverage, as well as men’s soccer and hockey. The NESCAC is founded on the idea of inclusivity, so it stands to reason that the sports coverage should as well. To that end, if you’re reading this and think, “damn, I can write better than these jagweeds” or “damn, my buddy can write better than these jagweeds,” feel free to email nothingbutnescac@gmail.com. We’re always looking for new voices and perspectives, particularly in those newer sports.

Now it’s time to kickoff the NbN year with the beginning of our football coverage. We’ll be rolling out previews for each team – mixed in with league previews for men’s and women’s soccer – starting this afternoon, but for now here’s a quick explanation of the biggest NESCAC football story of the off-season; the addition of a ninth game to the schedule.  If you’re looking for a more in-depth analysis here’s a good one from our friends at d3football.com, but basically games that were previously viewed as scrimmages will now count towards the NESCAC standings. These games begin next Saturday, September 16th.

The reasons for the change are very straightforward. Firstly, it allows each team to play each other team in a game that counts towards the standings. There have been too many years in the past in which a team has “won” the league record-wise while having avoided playing a team that could potentially have beaten them, and this rule change eliminates that possibility.

Secondly, it supports the NESCAC’s recent focus on player safety. The league has specific guidelines on how often a team can practice with full contact in game preparation. Switching the scrimmage to a game subjects the matchup to those rules, lessening the number of full contact practices. The earlier start does offer less time for teams to train, so I’d expect those new games to be a little sloppy, but at first glance the pros definitely outweigh that con. I’m sure you’re all as excited as we are to find out for ourselves.

Clash of the Titans: Tufts vs Amherst Playoff Preview

Overview:

NESCAC East Division Winner Tufts takes on number two seeded Amherst in the first round of the NESCAC Playoffs. Tufts finished the season at an outstanding 26-7-1 (9-3 in conference) with a total run differential of +163. In conference, the Jumbos put up double the amount of runs as their opponents (92 compared to 46). However, all this success has not come easy. Tufts’ dominant weekend performances have often been accompanied by a poorly played game occasionally.  In the highly-contested playoff format, the Jumbos cannot afford to dig themselves in a hole with a sloppy game to start off the postseason. Amherst, on the other hand, has been in playoff mode for two weeks now. The winner of their final weekend series against Wesleyan decided the two seed in the West Division, and Amherst prevailed. They finished the season at 19-14 overall but a solid 8-4 in conference. Interestingly enough though, their home record stood at 7-8 compared to their incredible away record at 9-1. Nonetheless, the playoffs represent the start of a new season and Amherst looks to ride their NESCAC hot streak into them. Having won the last 3 NESCAC series, the team proved to recover from the rough start and look for a win to start the postseason.

Likely Pitching Matchup: Speros Varinos ’17 (8-1, 1.60 ERA, 68 K) vs Jackson Volle ‘17 (5-1, 2.74,

Speros Varinos
Speros Varinos ’17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Jackson Volle
Jackson Volle ’17 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Both teams will likely throw their aces in game one of the postseason. Coincidently, these players were the two chosen as First-Team All-NESCAC last season. Speros Varinos ’17 throughout the season has proven again and again that he is the best pitcher in the NESCAC hands down. Finishing the season at 8-1 in 9 starts, Varinos led the league in wins, ERA at 1.60 and strikeouts, 68. He is our pick to win NESCACPitcher of the Year and likely will do just that, defending his title. All season, Varinos has shown his dominance and is ready to take on the Amherst lineup. Jackson Volle ’17 has put together an excellent season himself. In 7 starts, he went 5-1 with a 2.74 ERA. However, this number was weighed down by one poor start against Wesleyan in which Volle allowed 6 earned runs in his only loss. Take that start out and his ERA sits at roughly a full point lower around 1.76. Amherst looks for Volle to put together another strong performance against a talented Tufts offense.

Tufts X-Factor: Nick Falkson ‘18

Nick Falkson
Nick Falkson ’18 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Player of the Year candidate Nick Falkson has put together a phenomenal year. With depth in the infield, Coach Casey often rides the hot bat which explains why Falkson leads the team in such a category. Hitting .394/.468/.504, Falkson has consistently been one of Tufts’ best and most clutch hitters. Sitting in the heart of the lineup, he has hit in 34 runs and scored another 29. However, what stands out most about his season is the correlation between his success at the plate and team wins. In the 25 wins this season, Falkson has hit .430/.516/.540 with 31 of his 34 RBIs. In the team’s 7 losses, his averages drop significantly to .250/.240/.250. The Jumbos will look for Falkson to lead the offense in this first round matchup. If the trend continues, a big game from him could mean a Tufts win.

Amherst X-Factor: Harry Roberson ‘18

Harry Roberson
Harry Roberson ’18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

While slightly overshadowed by teammate Yanni Thanopoulos ’17, Harry Roberson has been a crucial part of this Amherst lineup. Leading the team with 135 at-bats, the shortstop has hit .363/.418/.548. These hits have led to a conference leading 38 runs scored. When facing a pitcher like Varinos, runs are hard to come by, so Roberson must continue to be aggressive on the base paths. He is 8 for 8 on stolen base attempts, but has additionally hit for power. Of the seasons 49 hits, 17 have been for extra bases including 11 doubles and 4 triples. Amherst will continue to rely on Roberson for these extra base hits as they will not be able to win leaving men on base. Roberson will likely need a big game for Amherst to beat Varinos and the Tufts staff.

Final Thoughts:

Despite the powerful offenses from both teams, this game will likely be a pitchers’ duel. Tufts will look to get Volle’s pitch count up and get to the bullpen while Amherst will have the same approach on their side. Either way, both teams are capable of not only winning this game, but making a run deep in the postseason. However, getting a win with their respective ace would prove to be a huge advantage in this two loss elimination format. After the grind of the regular season, both teams are ready for playoff action to get underway.

Prediction:

Varinos will put up another outstanding performance, but Volle will keep it close with a strong effort of his own. The Tufts lineup will then get to the Amherst bullpen late and come out on top in game one of the postseason.

Tufts 5 Amherst 2

Coaches Come and Coaches Go: Middlebury vs Bates Playoff Preview

Overview:

This match-up has Mike Leonard’s fingerprints all over it. The former coach of Bates has reshaped the Middlebury program with the kind of efficiency usually reserved for college students with a final due the next morning. But, as evidenced by their playoff spot, Leonard didn’t leave Bates wanting for talent. Both teams are loaded with good young players, and have seen those players lead them to playoff spots that no one predicted before the season began. The teams are trending in different directions though. After a scorching 7-0 start in league play, Bates has dropped their last five, while Middlebury has played well the whole second half and finished at 8-4 in NESCAC play.

Bates’ strength all year has been their pitching. The have the second best team ERA in the league at 3.60, and during league play that number has dropped to 2.65, best in the league. They also are the third best fielding team in the league, with a .962 fielding percentage and 41 errors in 31 games. Bates doesn’t beat themselves, and is well suited to shut down the best offenses in the league. However, the Bobcats simply can’t score. They are last in the league in batting average and slugging percentage (.229 and .275 respectively.) Four of their five losses in league play have been by one run, and that trend is entirely due to an inability to get a big hit, particularly with runners in scoring position.

Middlebury has been a far more consistent team this season, but offense is certainly their strong suit. They have a .302 team average and a .434 slugging percentage, good for second and third in the league. Ryan Rizzo ‘17 sets the table at the top of the order and is a terror on the basepaths with 19 steals. And then fellow senior Jason Lock ‘17 knocks him in (30 RBI on the season.) Justin Han ‘20 provides good power with four home runs, and Sam Graf ‘19 rounds the lineup out with a combination of power, contact and speed that is rare in the league. The Panthers’ pitching was a problem early in the season, but has come together of late. Colby Morris ‘19 is coming off a Pitcher of the Week award, and Spencer Shores ‘20 has been stellar all throughout league play with a 2.29 ERA.

(Likely) Pitching Matchup:

Bates: Connor Speed ‘19 (1-5, 2.17 ERA, 40 K in 49.2 innings)

Connor Speed
Connor Speed ’19 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Speed gets two awards here. He is the runaway winner of the “Most Appropriate Name” award, and also the “Unluckiest Pitcher” award. He has gotten miniscule run support all season, finishing with only one win despite a 2.17 ERA. He also has gotten weirdly poor defensive effort behind him. He has allowed 25 runs on the year, and only 12 of them have been earned. All this to say that Speed is an ace; he just doesn’t have the won-loss record to back it up. He strikes out a fair amount of batters (over seven per nine innings) and has good control. Speed is one of the few pitchers in the league who have the ability to shut down an excellent Middlebury lineup.

Middlebury: Spencer Shores ‘20 (4-0, 4.25 ERA, 42 IP, 39 K)

Spencer Shores
Spencer Shores ’20 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

The Panthers have a tough decision to make here. Colby Morris has had several rough performances in league play, but is the reigning Pitcher of the Week after out-dueling Tufts ace Speros Varinos ‘17 4-0 last weekend. Shores, on the other hand, has peaked in league play and has been more consistent throughout the season. But he is a first year, and starting an inexperienced pitcher in such a big game would give any coach pause. The thing that I think puts Shores over the top (in addition to the fact that he’s earned it by pitching very well) is that he is well rested. He hasn’t pitched since a rain shortened game against Bowdoin two weekends ago. Unfortunately, he did not pitch well in that game, giving up four runs in just 2.2 innings. Middlebury will have to choose between these two young starters.

Middlebury X-Factor: RP Connor Himstead ‘19 (1.56 ERA, 7 SV)

Conor Himstead
Connor Himstead ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Middlebury’s starting pitching inconsistencies have been mitigated by having maybe the best closer in the league. Middlebury, like Bates, has the tendency to end up in a lot of close games, so having a closer who they can rely to hold a lead has been one of the most important parts of their season. He  strikes guys out (17 in 17 innings) and only gave up 12 hits in those 17 innings as well. Bates’ terrific pitching signals a potential close game here; meaning that Himstead will get some work. He will be called on to hold a lead for Middlebury, or possibly to keep the game close to give the offense a chance to come back. Either way, he will be very important come Friday.

Bates X-Factor: OF Will Sylvia ‘20 (.306/.457/.389, 18 BB)

Will Sylvia
Will Sylvia ’20 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

As I said above, Bates’ offense has been mediocre (to put it lightly) all season. Sylvia has been one bright spot. Despite being a freshman, he has shown incredible plate discipline all year and has had a hand in most of Bates’ rallies on the year. His role in the lineup in primarily as a table setter due to his ability to get on base. Unfortunately, he is often stranded on base because Bates doesn’t have a run producer who is a threat to knock him in. To score in this series, Bates will have to manufacture runs, and they certainly won’t do that without Sylvia having a big series.

Final Thoughts:

The location of the game (Colby College) would seem to benefit Bates. They should bring a fairly good crowd with them, and should have less travel fatigue than the Panthers, who have a five hour drive.

The coaching change, however, should benefit the Panthers. Leonard might be able to give scouting reports on his former players, including likely starter Connor Speed. Middlebury’s reliance on first years may help them as well, as Bates will not have as much information on them as they do on the older players.

Prediction:

I think the game will remain close the whole time, as the strong pitching of both teams should keep the offenses at bay. However, Bates does not have the offense to break the game open, while Middlebury does.

Middlebury 3 – Bates 1

The Chosen Few: NbN’s Regular Season Awards Ballot

As we not-so-patiently await this weekend’s playoff games, it’s time to hand out some regular season hardware. This was a particularly fun year in NESCAC baseball. In Tufts we had a juggernaut dominate the regular season in a way not seen in several years. We had Bates’ insanely hot 7-0 start to league play, followed by an insanely cold 0-5 finish. Williams made a furious run at their playoff spot, but to no avail. And on the other side of the conference, we saw a real-life Cinderella story unfold before our eyes, as Middlebury rose from years of mediocrity to become a real championship contender. We will see how those storylines shift come this weekend. In the meantime, let’s recognize the top regular season performers in the award categories. As always, these are our opinions, so we welcome and expect criticism from all sides. We also urge you to check out the midseason awards article here for more info on most of these candidates.

Player of the Year

Yanni Thanopoulos

Winner: Amherst OF Yanni Thanopolous ‘17 (.429/.473/.529, 57 H, 37 RBI)

There are several players who could win this award. Tufts alone has three players who have the stats to contend for it in Nick Falkson ‘18, Tommy O’Hara ‘18 and Will Shackelford ‘19. However, it is precisely that lineup strength that keeps them from winning this award. Pitchers can’t afford to pitch around any of those players because the rest of the lineup is so dangerous. This award is better suited for a player who dominates despite a lesser supporting cast. Enter Thanopolous. Not to diss the rest of the Amherst lineup (NbN’s own Harry Roberson ‘18 excels as a table setter at the top of the order.) But Thanopolous’ run producing is the key to Amherst’s lineup. Additionally, Amherst’s pitching has struggled mightily for most of the season. Without a strong lineup, Amherst would not even be a playoff contender, and Thanopolous is the engine that makes it all run.

Tommy O'Hara

Runner-Up: Tufts IF Tommy O’Hara ‘18 (.343/.503/.528, 4 HR, 35 RBI)

 

 

Jason Lock

Runner-Up: Middlebury 1B Jason Lock ‘17 (.389/.455/.549, 30 RBI 13:6 BB/K)

 

 

Pitcher of the Year

Speros Varinos

Winner: Tufts SP Speros Varinos ‘17 (8-1, 1.60 ERA, 68 SO, 9 BB)

Unlike the Player of the Year award, this race has never been close. Varinos has dominated the league as much as any NESCAC pitcher in recent memory. He struck out double digit hitters three times in his nine starts, and the only blemish on his won-loss record came in his last start, a meaningless non-league matchup against Middlebury. Varinos combined with Tim Superko ‘17 to form the most dynamic starting pitching duo in the league. However, Tufts as a team has struggled to find an effective third starter, and even Superko posted a 3.55 ERA this season. He benefitted a great deal from Tufts’ stellar offense to post his 6-0 record. Therefore, Varinos is the key to Tufts rotation, which will be the most important factor in the playoffs as they contend with Thanopolous and the rest of Amherst’s lineup.

Johnny LamontRunner-Up: Williams SP John Lamont ‘20 (4-1, 1.80 ERA, 4 CG)

 

 

Erik MohlRunner-Up: Trinity P Eric Mohl ‘19 (16 APP, 7-2, 2.55 ERA)

 

 

 

Rookie of the Year

Justin Han

Winner: Middlebury OF Justin Han ‘20 (.308/.411/.490, 4 HR, 13:7 BB/K)

Middlebury is both one of the best teams in the league and maybe the youngest team, a testament to the recruiting of new HC Mike Leonard and his assistant Mike Phelps. And based on this season, Justin Han looks to be the biggest prize of that strong recruiting class. He showed tremendous power, finishing second in the league with four home runs. But the thing that sets Han apart from other first year players is his maturity. He only struck out seven times all year against thirteen walks. That kind of plate discipline is uncommon among any player, let alone a rookie. His stats were also better in the elevated competition of NESCAC play. In eleven league games, he hit .324 with two home runs and nine RBI, numbers that are better than his overall stats if you project them out to the same amount of games. Han also showed a clutch gene, hitting a game winning grand slam against Amherst to help Middlebury salvage a crucial game and avoid a sweep. With Han and his classmates, Middlebury is set up to be relevant for years to come.

Johnny LamontRunner-Up: Williams SP John Lamont ‘20 (4-1, 1.80 ERA, 4 CG)

*Editor’s Note: We feel bad for Lamont here. Not only does he finish second in two awards, but he has to live with a dud of an older brother (former NbM editor Adam Lamont.) We regret adding salt to that wound, and hope John doesn’t resent it too much in the future.

Alex RodriquezRunner-Up: Trinity C Alex Rodriguez ‘20 (.342/.361/.465 23 RBI)

New Coach on the Block: A Profile of Middlebury’s Mike Leonard

 Middlebury’s athletic program is rock solid. To be fair, I’m a student here, but to be objective – if objectivity still exists – Sports Illustrated recently gave us the title of the 8th-ranked school in the country for sports lovers. The Panthers have won 7 national championships in the last 10 years – roll Pants. But none of them have been in baseball. Many of our teams have a gaudy reputation both on campus and around the country. Historically, the baseball team has not been one of them.

Enter new head coach Mike Leonard. Coach Leonard, not surprisingly, is a ball player. He caught at UConn and was All Big-East. He went on to play in the Cape Cod League for the Harwich Mariners, and made it as far as the AA Portland Sea Dogs, before taking his batter’s eye from the batter’s box to the dugout (yes, that’s the corniest sentence I’ve ever written). In six seasons as the head coach at Bates, Leonard won over 20 games three times, and compiled 114 wins overall.

Leonard regards both his team and Middlebury’s reputation in a way that speaks towards a bright future for his baseball program. He sees the success of a team in much more than a record. When asked about the health of the program he was inheriting, Coach Leonard said, “I don’t know that the program itself has been struggling…for me personally to judge the program on just wins and losses wasn’t fair.”

I for one, had simply assumed that the program was a weak one. Leonard, as well as the performance of his team this year, have challenged that assumption.

He referenced the attitude of his players, as they situate themselves within the athletic culture at Midd, “They’re certainly ready to join the other teams on campus who are winning NESCAC titles and national championships…They were ready to put in the work, and they have the leadership and direction to get there…I’m excited.”

This is not to say that Middlebury’s new coach is unconcerned about record. After all, any team needs tallies in the win column to make the NESCAC tournament – to do so consistently is one of his goals – but it seems he wants so much more out of his players than just wins. As Leonard put it, “from an identity standpoint I want us to be resilient, confident, regardless of results, regardless of past outcomes.”

As far as young talent is concerned, Middlebury has plenty of it. But Leonard referenced the leadership of his seniors as the key to the team’s success. He said, “One of my messages to the seniors was to always include and empower the first year guys, because if you’re a senior you want to go out on top, and if that means that a freshman can go out and hit a grand slam and help you beat Amherst (Justin!); you’ve gotta be invested in that.”

The level of responsibility placed on senior leaders like Jason Lock ’17 and Ryan Rizzo ’17 has paid off in more ways than one. Not only are several young players playing fantastic baseball, but Rizzo and Lock are both having career seasons. But again, it’s not about the numbers. He sees not only young players playing to their full potential, but perhaps more importantly, he sees that “our seniors have done a great job of kind of putting ego aside and really trying to make it feel like one cohesive unit, one family.”

An excellent example of Coach Leonard’s philosophy shining through was first year Justin Han’s go-ahead grand slam against Amherst last weekend. It is just one of many instances of clutch hitting or solid performances off the mound from young Middlebury players this season. Leonard preaches discipline at the plate and in the game itself, and truly believes that that is the way to success.

He puts competition and cohesion before wins and losses, saying, “We’re sitting here right now at 6-10 with 8 losses by two runs or less. We’ve put ourselves in a position to compete. I want us to continue to be that type of team as long as I’m here.”

With greater emphasis on things like grit, commitment, and leadership, the Middlebury baseball team is already putting itself in position to be successful. As Mike Leonard himself said, judging a program based on number of wins alone isn’t fair. But by taking that perspective to heart, and by nurturing the relationships within his team, especially between the upper- and lower class-men, Middlebury is poised to add significantly to that win count.

Those among us without Coach Leonard’s perspective, those who prioritize victory in their judgement of a team, may soon enough count the Middlebury baseball team among the other consistent winners on campus.

 

Goodbye to Hoops: Basketball Season in Review

Monday was the first day of spring. I know that the weather at many NESCAC schools begs to differ, but I promise you that it’s true. Spring is a melancholy time for sports fans. On the one hand it’s baseball season. As you might know from reading literally any article ever written about baseball, spring and baseball go hand in hand. Every play in baseball begins the same way; with a pitch. Every is redeemed, much like the deadened flowers are redeemed in the spring. And here at NbN our NESCAC baseball coverage has kicked off in a big way with Devin’s preview.

But in this early spring I’m thinking about the end of something; basketball season. This year of NESCAC basketball was in many ways unprecedented for the league. Not in my memory has there been such talent across the board. While there were obviously better and worse teams, every squad this season had at least a couple moments where they blended together and sang in that way that only basketball can create. At one point there were five NESCAC teams ranked in the national top 25, and those five teams all received bids to the NCAA tournament.

This was a very literary season. We had a tragic hero find redemption in Tuft’s Tom Palleschi, who went down with a brutal knee injury during his

Tom Palleschi recovered from an injury to lead Tufts in the NCAA Tournament

senior season before returning to lead Tufts to the Sweet Sixteen. We had a classic trilogy a la Lord of the Rings in Middlebury and Williams Rounds One, Two and Three. The final battle was one for the ages, a gritty war that featured unsung heroes (Bobby Casey ‘19,) star turns (Kyle Scadlock ‘19 looks like a POY favorite after his NCAA run) and several atrocious blown calls a lot of high quality basketball. Before fading down the stretch, Hamilton put the league on notice that they’re ready to make a run. They lose none of their main rotation, and Kena Gilmour ‘20 and Peter Hoffmann ‘19 are as deadly a one-two punch as there is in the league. Next year could be the year that they rise to the upper tier.

 

I could write one of these paragraphs about every team. That is the nature of NESCAC basketball this season and going forward; every team has SOMETHING that makes them worth watching. There’s a reason that Rory, Colby, me, Henry and all the other writers want to take time out of our diverse liberal arts college experiences to write about sports. Quite simply, it’s all interesting. But I will keep this briefer than that. Here are a few thoughts, feelings, way too early predictions and just general things I’m excited for from this season, and looking into next.

The Williams-Middlebury Rivalry is Real, Folks:

Kyle Scadlock ’19 and Matt Folger ’20 are the new faces of the budding Panthers-Ephs rivalry.

Both Williams and Middlebury will suffer huge losses come graduation. For Middlebury, Matt St. Amour, Jake Brown, Bryan Jones and Liam Naughton were the leaders of the team both on and off the court, and formed a back court that was unmatched in the country. Daniel Aronowitz and Cole Teal filled similar roles for Williams. Neither team will ever be able to fully replace theplayers they will say goodbye to come graduation.

But there is hope in Williamstown and Middlebury. Both teams balanced their experienced senior guard with dynamic young talent, particularly at forward. Matthew Karpowicz ‘20 for Williams is a future star at center, and Scadlock is maybe the league’s best talent at the forward spot. But Middlebury is loaded too. Eric McCord ‘19 and Nick Tarantino ‘18 became a dangerous duo this year, and Matt Folger ‘20 has First Team potential even as a sophomore. And better yet, all of these players will remember the games this year. Middlebury embarrassed Williams in the NESCAC final, and then Williams got their revenge in Pepin in the NCAA’s. Those wounds wont heal quickly, and we should be in for battles between the Ephs and Panthers for years to come.

The First Team Center Spot is Wide Open:

If you look throughout the league, the majority of the losses outside of Williams and Middlebury are big men. Tufts loses Palleschi, Bates loses both Delpeche’s, and Trinity loses Ed Ogundeko. This means that the door is ajar for new names to step forward as the beasts of the league. Early contenders would be Scadlock, Hoffmann and Joseph Kuo ‘18 of Wesleyan, but there plenty of darkhorses who could step up. McCord should get a lot of looks as part of Middlebury’s possibly less guard-oriented offense, and Williams has several young bigs who may make leaps. It will be fun to monitor who is stepping into those very big pairs of shoes.

Amherst Had Better Reload:

Amherst will need to replace a large portion of their core this off season.

The Purple and White are lucky in that they keep the dynamic back court of Jayde Dawson ‘18 and Johnny McCarthy ‘18. But in almost every other area they are significantly weakened. They lose their most consistent bench threat in Eric Conklin, as well as David George (center and defensive stalwart) and both their point guards. And unlike Middlebury and Williams, they did not have a lot of deeper bench players who showed the potential to fill their shoes. Amherst struggled all season with a lack of depth, and graduation will decimate that already thin bench. Amherst traditionally recruits well and has benefitted from transfers in the past. If they don’t do that quite as well this offseason, they run the risk of falling even further behind surging teams like Hamilton and Williams.

 

We’re Going to Miss NESCAC Basketball:

This one needs no explanation.