The Beat Goes On: Football Weekend Preview 9/23

Week Two features several games that could go either way, making for an exciting week of football. The schedulers continue their support of the Williams resurgence, giving the Ephs another game against the lower tier of the league. Hamilton gets another chance for a signature win, taking on the Mammoths in the close runner up for GAME OF THE WEEK. And the winner of that race, Tufts @ Wesleyan, promises to be a terrific matchup featuring two rivals who played in hard fought matchups in Week One.

Middlebury (1-0) @ Bowdoin (0-1)

Bobby Ritter
Bobby Ritter ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

The Panthers looked like the Patriots for the first three quarters of their opener against Wesleyan, and then the Browns for the fourth quarter. They led the Cardinals 30-13 with 7 minutes left, then surrendered two touchdowns in a four minute span before a game saving pick by Bobby Ritter ’20 ended the comeback. For Middlebury, the first three quarters should be the biggest takeaway. They made an elite defense look tired, as Jared Lebowitz ’18 spread the wealth between several receivers before Conrado Banky ’19 got involved at the end. And defensively, they held Wesleyan in check before running out of gas. They were particularly effective in stopping the run, as Defensive Player of the Week Wesley Becton ’18 put up 11 tackles and forced two fumbles. Middlebury has weapons on both sides of the ball, and should get better at playing all four quarters as the season goes along.

Bowdoin fell victim to Williams’ youthful energy, losing 28-14 in a game that wasn’t even that close. The Polar Bears struggled on offense, only gaining 220 yards total for the entire game. They did show signs of life on defense, with LB Latif Armiyaw ’20 spending most of the day in the Williams backfield, but the offense simply couldn’t do enough to keep them off the field. This won’t get better against the Panthers.

Predicted Score: Middlebury 38, Bowdoin 6

Williams (1-0) @ Colby (0-1)

Colby had the misfortune of running into Trinity in Week One, so it’s hard to get a read on how the Mules look this season. However, they scored 0 points against the Bantams, so it’s safe to say that the offense could stand to improve. Luckily, Williams’ defense is certainly not on par with Trinity’s. Look for Colby to try to establish RB Nate Richam ’18 and the running game early and often against the Ephs, who, being a young team, might struggle with a long road trip.

This picture, Frank Stola ’21 running away from a defender, basically sums up Williams’ week one match up with Bowdoin.
(Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Williams put on a terrific offensive display against Bowdoin, thanks almost entirely to a pair of first years. QB Bobby Maimeron ’21 threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns, and 168 of those yards, as well as both touchdowns, were to receiver Frank Stola ’21. Of course, this is a blessing and a curse for the Ephs. They have a bonafide weapon now, but Colby knows exactly who to focus on. They will focus their solid secondary, and particularly DB Don Vivian ’18, on Stola. This will be a test for these two phenoms, and I think they pass it.

Predicted Score: Williams 21, Colby 9

Amherst (1-0) @ Hamilton (0-1)

Both teams looked great in their season openers, with Amherst slaughtering Bates 41-17 while Hamilton narrowly lost to Trinity, 35-28 in overtime. Hamilton receiver Joe Schmidt won offensive player of the week honors after recording eight receptions for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Linebacker Tyler Hudson shared the defensive player of the week honors with Middlebury’s Wesley Becton. Hamilton sported the top three tacklers in week one with Cole Burchill and Colby Jones recording 13 and 11 tackles respectively. The Amherst Mammoths may not have any league leaders, but Ollie Eberth’s 210 passing yards and Andrew Sommer’s 10 tackles are still impressive.

Hamilton lost 34-0 at Amherst last year in the teams’ season opener. Hamilton has a long way to come to beat Amherst, but the Continentals looked much improved at Trinity and will need this home win to break into the top half of the conference. With the offensive performances last week, this game could turn into a shootout and might even come down to the last play.

Predicted Score: Hamilton 35, Amherst 31

Trinity (1-0) @ Bates (0-1)

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

Not a lot to say about this one. Trinity is far and away the best team in the league, having won 12 in a row at this point. They pasted Colby 35-0, and didn’t even play that well. The offense turned the ball over three times, something uncharacteristic of both QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 and RB Max Chipouras ’19. That was to be expected with the shortened preseason; they will probably tighten it up going forward.

Bates has to be a little disappointed in their Week One performance. Senior QB Sandy Plashkes struggled mightily, going 7-19 with an interception against an Amherst defense that, while solid, is not quite on the level of, say, Trinity or Wesleyan. Bates was forced to run the ball a great deal, which they did fairly effectively, but not nearly well enough to give the defense a chance to breath. And that tired defense looked very tired, giving up four touchdowns to unknown first year QB Ollie Eberth ’21. Trinity should do everything Amherst did to the Bobcats, just far worse.

Predicted Score: Trinity 49, Bates 3

GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts (1-0) @ Wesleyan (0-1)

Ryan McDonald ’18 will try to lead the Jumbos to a 2-0 start.
(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Overview:

The biggest match-up of the week is basically a must win for Wesleyan if they want any hope of competing for a title. There’s a chance that Trinity or one of the other contenders will lose one game, but they certainly won’t lose two. And Wesleyan already has their loss, falling to Middlebury on the road in Week One. In that game, they discovered that QB Mark Piccirillo ’18 (432 yards) is ready for prime time, but their offense was one dimensional. Middlebury shut down their rushing attack very effectively, forcing them to throw their way back into the game. Of course, the Panthers were surprised to find that they could.

This bodes well for their matchup with Tufts. The Jumbos squeaked out an overtime win in a classic against Hamilton. But over the course of that game their pass defense was certainly exposed. They gave up 365 passing yards to Hamilton QB Kenny Gray ’20, and 214 yards and four touchdowns to receiver Joe Schmidt ’20. Piccirillo and Mike Breuler ’18 are more experienced versions of those two, so Tufts may be susceptible to the same fate as last week.

Key for Tufts: Establishing the Run

Tufts QB Ryan McDonald ’19 was one of the stars of Week One, throwing for 267 yards and rushing for 92 more. He accounted for three touchdowns on his own, including this #SCtop10 candidate. But with all due respect to Hamilton (whom I think it’s clear that we’re high on this season,) Wesleyan’s defense is a bit of a different story. McDonald will not be able to throw all over the Cardinals, and they’re certainly experienced enough to not let him break free for long runs. Tufts should work early on running the ball to set up play actions and bootlegs for McDonald.

Key for Wesleyan: Controlling the Pace

The way that Middlebury was able to attack Wesleyan’s vaunted defense was by tiring them out. The Panthers are one of the best teams in the league at running no huddle, and Wesleyan’s defense looked gassed an confused several times during Week One. This was supported by several very short drives by the offense in the first three quarters, keeping the defense on the field. To prevent Tufts from following Middlebury’s game plan, Wesleyan needs take some time on their offensive drives.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 27, Tufts 24

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.

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

The Ninth Games: Weekend Preview 9/16

Here we are, NESCAC football fans. Not only is this opening weekend (always exciting) but it is also the first opening weekend of the Ninth Game era, something that fans and players have wanted for a while. I would caution you to take your excitement with a grain of salt, however. This season starts a week earlier than usual. That means a week less practice time for teams to get ready for game play. I would expect these games to be somewhat sloppy, and potentially fairly low scoring. Some grizzled, older fans like my father would like that “smash-mouth football style,” but I like offense. We will see how well teams have adjusted to this new schedule. However, if it means we get to watch football earlier, I’ll gladly accept some sloppiness.

Bowdoin @ Williams, 12:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

The first kickoff of the season features two teams that are looking to put 2016 in their rearview mirror. This can only happen with a good start in 2017, so both sides should be very motivated. All eyes will be on who starts at quarterback for Williams, although sources are telling us that it will most likely be John Gannon ‘18, who is returning from missing last year with a torn ACL. A fair amount of rust is to be expected (from everyone, not just Gannon,) but if he can get into a rhythm then he has the weapons to really explode. TE Tyler Patterson ‘19 is a beast when healthy, and experienced receivers Adam Regensberg ‘’18 and Kellen Hatheway ‘19 give him a lot of options to throw to. Bowdoin’s defense wasn’t exactly world-beating last year, allowing the most rushing yards AND passing yards per game last year, but they return two stellar linebackers Latif Armiyaw ‘18 and Joe Gowetski ‘18 and will be looking to make a statement. However, I think Williams is ready to start trending upwards, and this game is the start of that.

Final Score Prediction: Williams 27, Bowdoin 10

GAME OF THE WEEK: Wesleyan @ Middlebury, 1:00 PM, Middlebury, VT

Jared Lebowitz ’18 is the most dangerous offensive force in the league, but needs a good o-line performance to top Wesleyan.
(Courtesy of vpr.net)

It’s not every year that a Week One game could have championship implications, but this game might. Wesleyan and Middlebury both have the returning talent to make a run at the championship, but one of them is also starting off the season 0-1. With Trinity’s level of talent and easier opening matchup, one loss might be too many to win the league outright. Therefore, we can expect both teams to be extra-fired up entering this one. Middlebury has been excellent at home over the last few years, but Wesleyan is well equipped to attack the dynamic Panther offense. The only way to beat Middlebury is to get pressure on QB Jared Lebowitz ‘18. If he has enough time, he will pick your defense apart. But when under pressure, he is prone to rushed throws and turnovers. Wesleyan’s defense is certainly athletic enough to get through the young Middlebury offensive line.

However, the Cardinals offense can be inconsistent. They lost two of the major weapons from their running attack last year in WR/RB Devin Carillo and RB Lou Stevens. Therefore, they either have to use Dario Highsmith ‘19, the new starting RB, in a much larger role or reinvent themselves as a more pass-heavy offense. If their offense struggles, Middlebury’s no-huddle offense will wear down the defense, and eventually Lebowitz will get the time he needs. And at that point, it’s game over.

Score Prediction: Middlebury 31, Wesleyan 28

Hamilton @ Tufts, 1:00 PM, Medford, MA

This game has by far the highest upset potential of any this weekend, and I’m jumping on it. Hamilton returns a great deal of their much-improved offense from last year, including quarterback Kenny Gray ‘20, who impressed many with his poise as a first year last season. The defense is far newer, but they benefit this week from facing a Tufts team that graduated most of their offense from last year. Of course, that offense came in the form of one man, RB Chance Brady, who dominated the league like Tecmo Bo Jackson last year. It will take a great deal of work for Tufts to adjust to life without Brady. I think they’re up to the task, but the shortened preseason will cost them here in Week One.

Final Score Prediction: Hamilton 17, Tufts 14

Bates @ Amherst, 1:00 PM, Amherst, MA

Jack Hickey ’19 might well be the next star NESCAC running back in Amherst’s renewed offense.
(Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

This game features the return of Amherst QB and POY candidate Reece Foy ‘18, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. And not only do the Mammoths get Foy back, they return red zone weapon Jack Hickey ‘19 at running back. Hickey scored seven touchdowns last year, and seems poised to break out as a star this year in a wide open race for First Team RB. Amherst also returns star WR Bo Berluti ‘20. The Mammoth’s offense is ready to break out after struggling at times last season, and a strong defense puts Amherst back towards the top of the preseason rankings. Bates returns a great deal of talent as well. QB Sandy Plaschkes ‘18 has been solid for years, but has to raise his game in this game, and this season, if Bates wants to compete with teams like Amherst. Bates has the talent to make it a game, but Amherst is back and there’s nothing the Bobcats can do about it.

Final Score Prediction: Amherst 28, Bates 17

Colby @ Trinity, 1:00 PM, Hartford, CT

There are teams that have a chance to take Trinity down this season, and games in which they could struggle. Colby is not that team, and this is not that game. Trinity brings back QB Sonny Puzzo 18, RB Max Chipouras ‘19 and WR Bryan Viera ‘18. In other words, they bring back arguably the best in the league at three skill positions. This bodes well for Trinity’s offense. Colby, on the other hand, lost their biggest weapon in Sebastian Ferrall ‘19. They do return a great deal of talent on defense, especially in the secondary and at linebacker. If everything goes perfectly for the Mules, they put up a great performance on defense and only lose by one touchdown. Unfortunately, the team that beats Trinity this season will have to beat them in a shootout, not a defensive battle.

Final Score Prediction: Trinity 40, Colby 10.

 

Chasing the Ephs: 2017 Women’s Soccer Previews

Editor’s Note: We recognize that the season is well underway, so for those who haven’t been paying attention here are the current standings, updated for 9/11/17.

While I may have played varsity soccer in high school before my days on the Middlebury Baseball team, I only played for one season and was a keeper, so I’m just being honest when I say that I don’t have a great feel for the game. If I use the wrong jargon, terminology, vocabulary, or grammar don’t take it too seriously. I, however, do take improvement seriously, and will be in London, studying the EPL (English Premier League; See I’m not a complete idiot) and why Arsenal is doomed for a terrible season all of my fall semester just to prove my haters wrong. So look for these pieces to get increasingly accurate as the year goes on. Here goes:

Hannah Guzzi
Hannah Guzzi ’18 led the league in goals last season with 19. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Amherst (8-1-1, 17-3-1)

Senior forward Hannah Guzzi ‘18 leads Amherst following a NESCAC Championship and her Third Team NSCAA All-American honors. Last season the formerly Purple and White ended up losing in the NCAA round of 16, and star player Guzzi led the team and the conference in points (43) and goals (19). She found the back of the net in 14 of Amherst’s 21 contests and scored seven game-winning goals with five assists. She tallied goals in all three of Amherst’s NCAA Tournament games to finish 2016 as the program record holder for points and goals in a season. Also returning for the Mammoths are All-NESCAC honorees, attacking midfielder Delancey King ‘18 (First Team) and defensive midfielder Caleigh Plaut defense ’19 (Second Team).

Olivia Amdur
Olivia Amdur ’19 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Bates (1-8-1, 5-9-1)

The Bobcats were only able to muster two results in league play last year, missing the postseason despite ending the season on a 3-1-0 run. It was a lost season in terms of their points, however, they had bright spots with their younger stars developing on the pitch. They return center-mid Hannah Behringer ‘18 who was second on the team with four goals, tied with forwards Olivia Amdur ’19 and Riley Turcotte ‘20. Despite flaws in their attack, resulting in shutouts in nine of 16 matches, they have several pieces who can do damage to put Bates in a position to get points. Their most glaring need is a stronger back line and keeper as they allowed the most scores in the league (30). Keeper Sarah McCarthy ‘18 had a significantly down year, allowing nearly one goal more per game than in 2015, pushing me to think the defense was the main source of the problem. Five incoming first year players are slated to see time at either right, left, or center back and in the midfield, putting more depth in front of McCarthy than a season ago.  

Bowdoin (5-4-1, 9-6-1)

Bowdoin finished in a tie for fifth with Conn College and Tufts and played Middlebury in the first round of the playoffs, resulting in a quick exit. Despite beating Middlebury 1-0 earlier in the season, stud goalie Rachel Stout ’18 was unable to match her earlier shut out in the playoffs. Behind a stellar defense the Stout, the Polar Bears allowed the fewest goals in the league, although they did play less games than the NCAA tournament teams. For a more comparable stat, they allowed seven goals in league play, good for second place behind Williams’ three goals allowed. Morgen Gallagher ’20 was named to the Second-Team All-NESCAC as a forward and led the team in her first year with four goals. Nikki Wilson ‘18 was also named to the Second-Team All-NESCAC as a defender and is joined by seven other full time returning players. Only two consistent senior starters graduated, leaving few holes, and if Bowdoin can develop their offensive game, their defense should put them in great positions to end many games in a 1-0 advantage.

Samantha Rizzo
Samantha Rizzo ’19 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Colby (1-9-0, 6-9-0)

Despite a tied for last place finish in NESCAC play with a 1-9-0 record, the Mules lost four games by a score of 1-0 in league matches and were a perfect 5-0 out of conference. While everybody knows the only real games are in conference as their out of conference games were against worse teams, their overall record was still not indicative of the way their season went. Forward Laura Arnold ’18 leads the returning players with three goals and 11 points from last season and Hannah Brozdowski ‘19 will likely be right behind her after starting at center-midfielder and tallying seven points. Samantha Rizzo ‘19 is one of the stronger keepers in the league after saving 98 shots on her own, good for second in the conference despite still allowing the fourth most goals. Their defense is an issue and Rizzo can’t stop every shot, and five or six defensive minded first year players should aid Colby in a resurgent 2017. They will have a good shot at making the playoffs, and while they won’t knock off any of the top teams, they might be able to muster some results and eventually compete in the postseason.

Connecticut College (5-4-1, 10-6-1)

The Camels who were ranked 22nd nationally in 2016 at one time, will rely on the foot of midfielder Caroline Kelleher ’18 for depth during the season while wingers Alex Baltazar ’19 (Second Team All-NESCAC) and Michelle Medina ’18 provided 12 of the team’s 22 assists and scored the most goals on the team to boot. Baltazar led the team with 10 goals while Kelleher and Medina each added three. Kelleher will look to transition into a more consistent role this year after scoring a hat trick against Hamilton, but not finding the back of the net in any other games. Conn College started off the NESCAC regular season with a 3-0 record last season but ultimately fell down the rankings to seventh place, despite making a nice run at the end of the year. They received an at large bid to the NCAA tournament and made it to the second round after a PK win against Scranton. The Camels have a solid attack and if others can join Baltazar as leaders on offense, they will be hard to stop.

Katie Kreider '18, Women's Soccer
NbN Alum Katie Kreider ’18 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Hamilton (2-7-1, 5-8-1)

The Continentals snuck into the NESCAC playoffs last year despite scoring the fewest goals (13) and points (35) in the league. They do return eight starters on the pitch, including several seniors and four year starters in Emily Dumont ‘18, Katie Kreider ‘18, Amanda Becker ‘18, and Katja Dunlap ‘18. Kate Whiston ‘18 is the returner with the most goals from a season ago at three, and will need to increase that for Hamilton to get more results in league play. They lack weapons offensively and will need to be more successful in their combinations to get better looks and more shots on target. They were not overly strong on defense either, but the glaring hole was in total goals, and as everybody knows, the best defense is a good offense.

Middlebury (7-3-0, 15-5-0)

Despite losing All-American Katherine Hobbs ‘17, the Panthers should still have a great shot at going deep into the NESCAC playoffs and get an NCAA tournament berth. Despite a loss in the conference semis to Amherst, they made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament, losing to Messiah who went on to beat Williams in the quarterfinals and lose in the finals. They return just six starters though, including their top two scorers the players with the three highest total point totals. Senior midfielder Emma Shumway ‘18 and attacking midfielder Amanda Dafonte ‘19 will need to bear the brunt of the scoring load as they had found the back of the net nine times between them. Keeper Ursula Alwang ‘20 came on strongly at the end of 2016, eventually taking over as the starter and tallying back to back clean sheets in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament. Looking to step up as breakout players for Midd will be Virginia (Jinx) Charman ‘20 bringing depth to the midfield, shifting up front on the attack as well and Clare Robinson ‘19, a transfer from D1 Wofford who made her D3 debut in 2016. Robinson and her younger sister Eliza ‘21 have NESCAC glory in their family as their sister Hannah ‘16 won the NESCAC POY in 2015.

Julia Pitino
Julia Pitino ’18 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Trinity (7-3-0, 11-5-4)

The Bantams return a solid corp from the team that shocked Williams in PK’s in the semi-finals last season. 2016 NESCAC First-Team honoree midfielder Taylor Kirchgessner ‘19 is a contender for POY as a junior. Sarah Connors ’18 provides stout senior leadership, but Trinity’s real strength lies in their keeper. Julia Pitino ‘18 was by all measure the best keeper in the league last year leading the league in total saves with 105 and save percentage at 87%. Between Conners and her, teams should have trouble scoring against Trinity. However, scoring goals themselves might be an issue. Kirchgessner is one of the biggest scoring threats in the league, but their second and fourth leading scorers (Laura Nee and Andi Nicholson,) both graduated, leaving a void in the Trinity offense. One potential solution is Tricia Pollack ‘20. With four goals as a first year, she could be poised for a breakout season.

Tufts (5-4-1, 7-6-3)

Tufts is looking to rise out of the middle of the pack this season. However, the loss of Robin Estus will not make that easy. A Second Team All League midfielder, Estus was adept at facilitating the Jumbo’s offense. WIthout her, Tufts will need some new faces to step up as offensive threats. One of those faces is Taylor Koscho ‘19. With one goal and four assists last year, she is a natural replacement for Estus’ production. Mariah Harvey-Brown ‘18 had four goals last season, and will likely be a major player in the offense this season as well. Defensively, Tufts could really use a star turn from keeper Emily Bowers ‘19. She was impressive as a sophomore last year with .98 goals against on average. However, with the losses on offense, Bowers could have far more save chances this year.

Wesleyan (0-7-3, 3-9-3)

I think it’s safe to say that last year didn’t go quite as the Cardinals hoped. They finished the year at 3-9-3 overall and 0-7-3 in the league, which was obviously the worst record in the league. Their problems were most apparent on offense. They only had three goals in league play. This put a lot of pressure on their defense, as opposing teams were constantly on the attack. And to make matters worse, they graduated their best goal scorer in Sarah Sylla ’17. It’s reasonable to expect Wesleyan’s offense to struggle again this year, therefore the defense will have to step up. The Cardinals alternated between two first year keepers in keeper Zoe Cassels-Brown ’20 and Claire Coyle ‘20, but it looks like Cassels-Brown will be the starter. 

Alison Lu
Alison Lu ’20 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Williams (9-0-1, 18-1-1)

From the basement of the league we go to the ceiling. Williams dominated NESCAC in the regular season last year, finishing at 18-1. However, they have to be a little disappointed in how the playoffs turned out. They rolled to the semifinals as expected, and then lost in penalty kicks to fourth-seeded Trinity. Of course, they then advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, so perhaps they weren’t so disappointed. Anyways, Williams certainly lost some of the talent that made them such a dominant force. The two biggest losses from the offseason were undoubtedly Kristi Kirshe and Audrey Thomas. The two of them made up possibly the best forward duo in the country, as both were named All-Americans. However, the Ephs are more than able to weather those losses. Alison Lu ‘20 was the second leading goal scorer in the league as a first year, and enters this year as the rare sophomore POY candidate. Alongside her is Second Team forward Kristina Alvarado ‘18, and fellow first year phenom Kristi Kirshe, who had eight goals last season. They return Second Team goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill ‘19, and standout defenders Danielle Sim ‘18 and Evan Gancedo ’18. The Ephs are certainly the favorite to win the league this season, but as they saw last year, a lot can happen in the postseason.

 

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.

So Long, NBN

It’s been just over a month now since my baseball career and college career came to an end. While I haven’t written a blog in a few months (as Pete happily pointed out towards the end of the semester), I enjoyed watching from arm’s length as Pete and Devin handled NESCAC baseball coverage this spring. Now that I’ve taken some time to digest the fact that I don’t have many days left before I enter the grueling grind of nine to five, I’ve come to realize the fact that one of my favorite parts of college has been writing for Nothing But NESCAC. It might seem a bit corny to write about NESCAC football and basketball games as if they were nationally televised SEC and ACC contests, but for me it has served as a chance to shine some light on the successes of my fellow Division III athletes.

I first heard of NbN my freshman year at Tufts when my roommate, Tim Superko, started cracking up in our dorm room and called me over to his computer. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw Adam’s equation demonstrating that Superko is a mashup of Paul Konerko and Superman. That kept me reading, and as I enjoyed keeping up with the site throughout my sophomore year, I decided to go out on a limb one night on Twitter and slid into the DMs of the NbN account to ask if I could write for basketball season. To my surprise, Joe responded almost immediately, and just like that, I was on board.

During that first basketball season (my junior year), I was just trying to get my feet wet. I went to every Tufts basketball game (spoiler alert: I’m a Tufts basketball superfan, always have been, always will be) and had grown up at Amherst college basketball games, so I felt like I knew quite a bit about NESCAC hoops. As it turned out, I had a lot to learn about the league, and a lot more to learn about journalistic writing. Regardless, I had a blast that winter. Writing weekly blogs, conducting interviews, and watching NESCAC basketball became my hobbies outside of academics and baseball. Soon enough, the remaining spare time that I had was replaced with editing and arguing with Pete over game predictions and All-NESCAC honors.

I would say the highlight of my blogging career came in the aftermath of posting my predictions for offensive/defensive POY at the beginning of football season this year. An Amherst football alum took exception to the lack of Amherst players on my list, and soon enough we were in a twitter war. That’s the kind of stuff that makes blogging fun – interactions with our readers. Though we do our best to keep up the facade that we know everything there is to know about NESCAC athletics, this is simply not true. It’s great to know when our readers agree with our opinions, but it’s also fun when you challenge us on our points. So please, give Pete hell next fall. People forget that a commenter once referred to him as the Skip Bayless of NESCAC blogging.

While I can’t take credit for starting NbN like Adam and Joe, it has been a privilege to run this blog. A huge thank you goes out to both of you for getting me on board and then convincing me to take the keys to the castle when you guys graduated last year. As I chatted with Adam at halftime of a Tufts basketball NCAA tournament game during my junior winter, I remember thinking “absolutely not” when Adam first mentioned that I should take over the blog for them. Well, as the weeks passed I realized that I was much more into the idea in May than I had been in March. I sit here writing this with a feeling of satisfaction knowing that I made the right choice when I told Joe over the phone last summer that I would accept their offer. Thanks for everything fellas.

I also can’t thank Pete enough for running the site with me this year. Throughout the fall and winter he was constantly coming up with ideas, writing and editing, all while managing his own bundle of extracurriculars. Pete is awesome to work with. He brings energy to the site and always make sure to keep me grounded, evidenced by the shots he takes at me in every other article. I will not soon forget our passionate text arguments regarding power rankings, game predictions, and most memorably, our conversation when he found out that I had picked Ed Ogundeko as my Player of the Year rather than Matt St. Amour. I know that Pete will continue to do a great job with NbN in the fall.

Finally, I’d like to thank all the NESCAC athletes out there. You guys are what makes this site fun and unique. While Division III does not receive the same glory that Division I does, the passion that Division III athletes — and especially NESCAC athletes — play with is just as noteworthy. As a NESCAC junkie that has grown up immersed in this terrific conference, I can say with great certainty that there is no conference quite like the ‘CAC.

One last quick plug, if you have any interest in writing for the site, no matter what sport you’re thinking of (even if we don’t yet cover it!), please reach out on either Facebook, Twitter, or to our email, nothingbutnescac@gmail.com. You can have any sort of commitment level that you like – it’s truly up to you. NbN really is a lot of fun, and speaking from experience, you won’t regret your decision to join us. I’ve had a blast writing about NESCAC sports, and I look forward to reading NbN in the future as it continues on.

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)