The First Test: Tufts vs. Conn Men’s Soccer Game Preview

If we learned anything from the opening weeks of play, it’s that the Jumbos and the Camels are going to be top contenders in the NESCAC. Just to give you a taste of what they are bringing to the table, Tufts has yet to even concede a goal and Conn. has scored 14 goals in three games; I’m no math major, but I think it’s safe to say these teams are statistical studs.

Now, from these stats we can see that this matchup will be a clash of a great offense and a stubborn defense, both unwilling to concede their supremacy over the conference. As defending national champions, Tufts has its first real test and an opportunity to unnerve every other team in the NESCAC.

The key to this Jumbos team is their stellar and experienced backfield. Seniors Matt Zinner ’18, Connor Coleman ’18, and Bruce Johnson ’18 all have felt that electric and nerve-racking atmosphere present in the national championship spotlight, so it is no surprise that they have been able to keep their nerves in control in the beginning of their 2017 campaign. Not only has this defense been impenetrable, but also their opponents can’t seem to get balls on net, collecting only 6 shots on goal against this Tufts squad.

Scoring against the Jumbos is equivalent to eating a single potato chip; it’s grueling and will most likely lead to failure and/or shame. The real question for Tufts is if they will be able to manufacture goals against the Camels. Luckily, the Jumbos have sophomore Gavin Tasker ‘20 leading the charge. Tasker has scored twice this season, and will certainly be looking to add on to that this weekend. The Jumbos sport a respectable 2 goals per game, and will need to put together a clever attacking strategy in order to validate their #1 ranking.

On the opposite side of the ticket, the Conn. College Camels will be looking to overthrow the top dogs in the country. They are averaging an absurd 4.67 goals per game this season and are also padding the stats with 44 points in three games (Hamilton is 2nd with 31 points in 4 games). One can always make the argument that Conn may have not been playing the strongest competition, showing Mitchell College who the real king of New London is with an 8-1 trouncing, but nobody can knock the Camel’s confidence coming into this game. They had a decisive away win at Middlebury to start the season, and then pummeled Salem St. 4-1.

Liam Noonan
Apparently Liam Noonan ’21 is a Created Player on FIFA, because this is his picture on the Conn College website.

Guiding this dynamic offense are seniors Ben Highton ’18 and Ben Manoogian ’18, who have opened up to both score and assist for the Camels. Not to mention that this Conn. squad also has wonderkid and freshman Liam Noonan ’21 who is absolutely terrifying defenses with his 3 goals and 3 assists, making his team-leading point tally something to get the Jumbos worried about.

For defense, the Camels employ another young gun in freshman A.J. Marcucci ’21, who has a somewhat ridiculous save percentage at 91%. Save percentage definitely is not the most reliable statistic out there for goalies, but one as impressive as this is still worth mentioning. With defenders like Anthony Aquadro ’20 and Liam Donelan ’21 to help Marcucci out, this Conn. team gets a whole lot more intimidating.

Conn College has found a gem in first year keeper AJ Marcucci ’21 , who was just named NESCAC Player of the Week in the first week of his career.

This matchup has the potential to be the most exciting conference game of the season. Tufts will be looking to stay atop their perch, while Conn. will settle for nothing less than to shut down the Jumbo hype. Tufts better remain focused, however, as this young Camel platoon will be displaying the underdog motivation that has turned so many games.

 

Other matchups this weekend:

Middlebury at Amherst

Wesleyan at Bowdoin

Williams at Colby

Hamilton at Trinity

Bates at Newbury College

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.