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.

Please Don’t Take Offense: Week One Stock Report

A lot of experts predicted that the Ninth Games would be defensive affairs, filled with turnovers and sloppiness. Well, a lot of experts were wrong. Week One was more offensive than Steve Bannon’s existence, and there were several tremendous performances, more than can be included in this Stock Report. Here are a few of the things that we noticed from Week One, both positive and negative.

Stock Up:

Hamilton-

A loss doesn’t usually land you on the coveted Stock Up list, but this was Hamilton’s most important performance in years. They hung tough with Tufts, on of the elite teams in the league, and even could have won had they tried to go for two instead of settling for the tie (more on that later.) They had the Offensive Player of the Week in WR Joe Schmidt ‘20, who tore the Jumbos apart to the tune of 214 yards and four touchdowns. And as if that wasn’t enough, they also had the Co-Defensive Player of the Week in LB Tyler Hudson ‘19, who had 19 tackles. Hamilton has weapons galore right now, and don’t be surprised if they break out this year.

Jimmy Martinez
Jimmy Martinez ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Middlebury WR Jimmy Martinez ‘19-

Middlebury’s WR situation right now is a disaster on paper. They graduated two of their biggest threats in James Burke and Ryan Rizzo, and junior stud Conrado Banky ‘19 hasn’t looked himself all preseason. But Jared Lebowitz ‘18 had plenty of guys to throw to against Wesleyan, and Martinez was one of the biggest targets. He had 5 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, but his biggest impact was on special teams, where he a returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Assuming Banky finds his way, Middlebury is still loaded with weapons thanks to Martinez, as well as sophomores TE Frankie Cosolito ‘20 and WR Maxim Bochman ‘20.

Williams Offense-

Frank Stola ’21 is a budding star for the Ephs.

It’s been a while since the Ephs had legitimate weapons on offense, but they certainly do now. WR Frank Stola ’21 had 7 receptions for 168 yards and two touchdowns, but the real revelation was first year quarterback Bobby Maimaron ‘21. Quarterback play has been arguably the biggest reason for Williams’ struggles, as they turned the ball over constantly last season. Maimaron threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns, and most importantly threw all his passes to Williams players. These two first years have Williams football rapidly back on the up and up.

Pete’s Predictions-

Damn you, Hamilton! If the Continentals had pulled off the upset, I would have been a perfect five for five. In any case, look at the actual scores versus my predictions.

Pete’s Prediction Actual Score
Middlebury 31, Wesleyan 28 Middlebury 30, Wesleyan 27
Williams 27, Bowdoin 10 Williams 28, Bowdoin 14
Amherst 28, Bates 17 Amherst 41, Bates 17
Trinity 40, Colby 10 Trinity 35, Colby 0
Hamilton 17, Tufts 14 Tufts 35, Hamilton 28 (we can’t win em’ all)

Not a bad start! This is how you get to be editor, folks.

Stock Down:

Wesleyan Defense-

The group that terrorized NESCAC last year lost two key members in Jordan Stone and Justin Sanchez, but they still return a great deal of talent. However, against Middlebury the Cardinals looked like they were feeling those losses. They gave up 20 points in the first quarter, and although they made a furious fourth quarter comeback to pull within three points, the defense didn’t look nearly as threatening as the 2016 iteration. Although QB Mark Piccirrillo ‘18 had a huge game while he tried to throw them back into the game, Wesleyan is not really equipped to win shootouts. The defense will have to improve fast, as they play Tufts next week and the suddenly-threatening Hamilton offense the week after.

Middlebury’s Fourth Quarters-

With all that said about Wesleyan’s defense, they still had a shot at pulling off a miraculous comeback in the fourth quarter. However, it is just as valid to blame Middlebury for letting them back into it as it is to credit Wesleyan for coming back. The Panthers defense, which had been stringent for the rest of the game, allowed two touchdowns in a five minute span, and the offensive line began letting Wesleyan’s linebackers into the backfield, forcing Lebowitz into rushed throws. Given the early start to the season, this can be partially attributed to conditioning, and Middlebury has Bowdoin and Colby over the next two weeks to get in shape for Amherst. And based on this game, it looks like they’ll need to.

Mike Breuler ’18 and Wesleyan almost pulled off a comeback against Middlebury.

Hamilton’s Dillon Panthers Impression-

I’ve already given a great deal of credit to Hamilton in this article, but there’s one thing that is stuck in my mind about their game. They scored their final touchdown with four minutes left, and instead of going for two and taking the lead, they opted to kick the extra point and tie the game. This is, of course, the smart and correct thing to do. As I’m reminded pretty much daily by email or Twitter DM by readers, I don’t know anything about football. But Coach Eric Taylor does, and in a similar situation during season three of Friday Night Lights, he went for two. This was during the state playoffs, no less! Hamilton was closing in on the most important win in the program’s recent history, so all I’m saying is that I, and Coach Taylor, would have thrown caution to the wind.

 

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.

 

The Mules are Stubborn: 2017 Colby Football Preview

2016 Record: 3-5

Projected 2017 Record: 2-7

Projected Starters: Offense (*Returning)

QB: Christian Sparacio ‘18*

RB: Jake Schwern ‘19

WR: TBD

WR: Mark Snyder ‘18*

WR: Matt RIchman ‘19

TE: TB

OL: Chris Bedigian ‘19

OL: Luke Borda ‘18

OL: Travon Bradford ‘18

OL: TBD

OL: TBD

Projected Starters: Defense (*Returning)

LB: Bryan McAdams ‘18*

LB: Sebastian Philemon ‘19*

LB: TBD

DB: Don Vivian ‘19*

DB: Ian Dickey ‘18*

DB: Will Caffey ‘19*

DB: TBD

DL: Sam Gomez ‘18*

DL: AJ Carrigan ‘19

DL: TBD

DL: TBD

Christian Sparacio
Christian Sparacio ’18 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Offensive MVP: QB Christian Sparacio ‘18

Colby’s offense was nothing to write home about last season, and they lost arguably their two biggest threats; RB Jabari Hurdle-Price and WR Sebastian Ferrall, who did not graduate and simply isn’t returning to school. This puts incredible pressure on Sparacio to step up, even with those security blankets out of the picture. He is the presumptive starter and got the brunt of the action, but was challenged last year by first year Jack O’Brian ‘20, and there is a Dartmouth transfer, Harry Kraft ‘19, who will also press him. Sparacio has the ability to hold onto his job, but the Mules need more than that if they want any hope of matching last year’s win total.

Don Vivian
Don Vivian ’19 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Defensive MVP: DB Don Vivian ‘19

Colby retains much of their solid defensive core from last season, and Vivian is the biggest prize of that returning crop. He picked off two passes and broke up five, but his greatest contributions are as a run stopper and tackler. He tallied 63 tackles, a number usually reserved for linebackers, and made an impact in the backfield with three tackles for loss. Vivian heads up a defense that is as experienced as any in the NESCAC, and should be the Mules calling card this season.

Biggest Game: vs. Bates, October 28

NESCAC football is exciting, yes, but it is also stratified. For the most part, you know at the beginning of the year which five teams will be competing for the title. This puts the teams that are outside of that upper tier in a competition for an award I like to call “The Best of the Rest.” Fans of those upper teams often dismiss games between those teams, but they are often the most enjoyable to watch. This game could very well decide the “Best of the Rest,” assuming neither team makes a miraculous leap to the upper tier. Additionally, the game could decide the CBB winner, which is a fierce regional rivalry. Mark this one down as one to check out.

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Summary:

Colby surprised many last year by tallying three wins, and they return a good deal of that team this season, with the notable exception of star WR Sebastian Ferrall ‘19, who is not returning to the school. Without him, the Mules will have to rely heavily on their experienced defense and try to manufacture offense as best they can.

Defensive back Don Vivian ‘18 is a First Team candidate, and he leads an experience secondary that is Colby’s greatest strength. They also return a talented duo of linebackers in Bryan McAdams ‘18 and Sebastian Philemon ‘19. Defensive line could be an issue, as they are still waiting on several position battles to work themselves out. Stopping the run is critical to NESCAC success, and it’s very tough to do that with an inexperienced offensive line.

On offense, the Mules greatest returning weapon is kicker (yes kicker) John Baron ‘18. Many NESCAC teams struggle to find consistent placekickers, and many teams aren’t particularly bothered by that. But having one is a real weapon, particularly for a team like COlby that lacks a truly dominant red zone weapon. Baron is a key to Colby’s chances this year, especially if they get into games that come down to the wire. Aside from that, offense is going to be a real problem for Colby. They will need to see vast improvement from QB Christian Sparacio, which will not be helped by the loss of Farrell and starting running back Jabari Hurdle-Price. If they don’t get it, junior transfer Matthew Kraft ‘18 (of the New England Patriots Krafts) will be waiting in the wings.

 

Fly, Cardinals Fly: 2017 Wesleyan Football Preview

2016 Record: 6-2

Projected 2017 Record: 8-1

Projected Starters: Offense (*Returning)

QB: Mark Piccarillo ‘19*

RB: Dario Highsmith ‘20

WR: Mike Breuler ‘18*

WR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*

WR: TBD

TE: TBD

OL: Beau Butler ‘18 *

OL: Terrance Norton ‘19 *

OL: Ryan Shutta ‘20

OL: TBD

OL: TBD

Projected Starters: Defense (*Returning)

LB: Shane Kaminski ‘18 *

LB: Brandon Morris ‘19*

LB: TBD

CB: Jason Mitzner ‘18*

S: Elias Comacho ‘18*

S: TBD

CB: Ben Thaw ‘20/Eli Blair-May ‘20

DE: Jude Lindberg ‘19

DT: Grant Williams ‘19

DT: Bobby Nevin ‘19

DE: TBD

Projected Starters: Special Teams (*Returning)

K: TBD

P: TBD

KR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*

PR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*

Summary:

Wesleyan finished last season at 6-2, very much in the mix as one of the top teams in the league. They did it with a dynamic, powerful defense that was complemented by a run based offense that very rarely turned the ball over. This is usually a pretty solid and sustainable formula for success. However, the Cardinals lost a lot of the pieces that made that formula work in the offseason. They are that rare team that could go either way this season. They could rely on their depth and have young players step up to help them make the leap to the true top tier, or they could fall to the middle of the pack.

On offense, most of their losses affect that crucial running game. Lead back Lou Stevens is gone, as is, of course, versatile threat Devin Carrillo. Carrillo’s loss particularly stings,as he was a factor in every part of Wesleyan’s offense. He had 12 rushing touchdowns, and was also their leading receiver. To replace that kind of production, senior QB Mark Piccarillo will have to become elite. He is close to that level already, accounting for 15 total touchdowns last season, but without Stevens and Carillo to fall back on he will be asked to make more difficult throws and to run the ball with more authority. Luckily for the Cardinals, they are still very deep at receiver, with Eric Meyreles ‘18 and Mike Breuler ‘18 forming one of the better duos in the league.

Defensively, they lost two of their standouts in DT Jordan Stone and DB Justin Sanchez. They were both all-league level players, but more than that they, along with Coach DiCenzo and his staff, were responsible for forming the tough as nails defensive identity for which Wesleyan has become known. Luckily, that identity has seeped into the pores of the other players. LB Shayne Kaminski ‘18 is more than ready to take over that leadership mantle, and Wesleyan boasts a trio of junior DT’s that stop opposing rushing attacks where they stand. Defense has never been a worry for the Cardinals, and it won’t be this year.

Depth is what the Cardinals hope will keep them afloat despite all these losses, and that leads to position battles. There are two major ones that we’re keeping an eye on. On offense, tight end is up in the air. Senior Jake Cronin ‘18 would appear to have an inside track due to his experience, but freshman Patterson ‘21 adds a receiving dimension to their offense. And on defense, that final LB spot is still open, although sophomore Will Kearney ‘20 has made an impressive push in camp and might be set as the starter. Wesleyan lost a great deal, but they also keep a great deal and look poised to make a leap.

Eric Meyreles
Eric Meyreles ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Offensive MVP: WR Eric Meyreles ‘18

One of the strengths of Wesleyan’s offense is their versatility. Last season they used Devin Carrillo ‘17 as a weapon from pretty much everywhere on the field. Carrillo had 12 rushing touchdowns, as well as 29 receptions as a receiver. His departure leaves them with a hole in that receiver hybrid spot that is so popular in today’s game. Meyreles is the logical choice to fill that void. He was their third-leading receiver last year with 21 receptions, and also uses his speed to be one of the most dangerous return men in the league. Wesleyan could well give some of Carillo’s rushing sets to Meyreles, making him an even more versatile threat.

Shayne Kaminski
Shayne Kaminski ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Defensive MVP: LB Shayne Kaminski ‘18

This choice is pretty straightforward. Kaminski was one of the best linebackers in the league last year as a junior, putting up 61 tackles and four sacks. Wesleyan as a team was one of the best defenses in the country, ranking towards the top in yards allowed for most of the season.Clearly, defense is Wesleyan’s identity. Unfortunately for them, they lost elite defensive back Justin Sanchez. This leaves a void at a leadership position for that elite defense, a void that Kaminski is more than ready to fill. Look for him at the end of the season as First Team and DPOY candidate.

Dario Highsmith
Dario Highsmith ’20 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Player to Watch: RB Dario Highsmith ‘20

Wesleyan has long relied on a strong rushing attack to complement their stellar defense. Last season they averaged nearly 180 yards per game on the ground, and scored 21 rushing touchdowns. However, between Carillo and fellow graduated senior back Lou Stevens, the Cardinals have lost a large chunk of those yards and touchdowns. Enter Dario. Highsmith put up an impressive first year last season, fitting in seamlessly to Wesleyan’s vaunted rushing attack, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and, most importantly, not fumbling once all season. Highsmith is poised to combine with Piccarillo, an excellent threat to run from the QB spot, to form a dynamic duo out of the backfield.

Biggest Game: @Trinity, November 11th

Wesleyan has their sights set on the top this season, and on paper they certainly have the talent to get their. Of course, the games aren’t played on paper, but say for the sake of this section of the preview that they and the Bantams run the table leading up to this match-up. Imagine iow exciting that game would be. Even if that hypothetical doesn’t come true, this game could very well serve as a de facto NESCAC championship. And aside from that, it’s a classic offense versus defense matchup, and those are always fun.

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The Brady(less) Bunch: 2017 Tufts Football Preview

2016 Record: 7-1

Projected Record: 9-0

Projected Offensive Starters: (*Six Returning)

QB: Ryan McDonald  ’19*

RB: Dominic Borelli ’19*

WR: Mike Miller ’18*

WR: Jack Dolan ’19

WR: Dan De Leon ’19

TE: Jack Donahue ’20

LT: Liam Thau ’18*

LG: Josh Thibeault ’19*

C: Nick Roy ’19

RG: Gian Calise ’18*

RT: Tim Reitzenstein ’19

Projected Defensive Starters: (*Nine Returning)

DE: Zach Thomas ’18*

DT: Doug Harrison ’18*

DT: Tom Baker ’20

DE: Micah Adickes ’18*

LB: Steve DiCienzo ’18*

LB: Greg Holt ’20*

LB: Caden Bevilacqua ’19/Tylor Scales ’20

CB: Tim Preston ’19*

SS: Brett Phillips ’18*

FS: JP Garcia ’18*

CB: Alex LaPiana ’19*

Projected Specialists:

K: Andrew Pettit ’20/ Matt Alswanger ’21

P: Alex Lapiana ’19/ Dan De Leon ’19

KR/PR: Jack Dolan ’19/ Tim Preston ’19

Summary:

School is back in session, and each morning as I enter the local Dunkin’ Donuts, I hear chatter about whether or not 2017 is the year Tufts Football brings home the NESCAC Championship. One local remarks, “Ah they no longah have that Brady kehd, they’ve got no chance.”, another one says, “Jim enough of ya complainin’, I haven’t seen a defense like this since the ’85 Bears”. I leave that Dunkin’ Donuts and think, You know what, they might be lacking 2 time NESCAC Player of the Year, Chance Brady, but like the New England Patriots, Tufts Football goes by the motto, “Next Man Up”. After all, Tufts Athletics have proven themselves as the top dog in the NESCAC in recent history and 2017 Tufts Football will only solidify that.

A year ago, Tufts Defense was 4th in the NESCAC in points allowed per game at 18.9. With nine returning starters, expect that number to drop. There are few holes in this defense with big guys Doug Harrison ’18 and Micah Adickes ’18 up front holding up the running game. Steve DiCienzo ’18 and reigning NESCAC leading tackler and Rookie of the Year, Greg Holt ’20 provide athleticism and power at the LB positions. Arguably the strongest part of their defense is their secondary. Any coach would be a fool to even consider throwing near Tim Preston ’19, who led the NESCAC with 5 picks as a sophomore. Preston was recently seen selling Preston Island T-shirts outside the dining hall. Returning back from injury is the hardest hitting safety in the league, Brett Phillips ’18 who is complemented by JP Garcia ’18. Finally another returner Alex LaPiana ’19 is the other CB. Expect big things from the defense.

Tufts Offense is a whole other story. Like I stated above, there is tons of doubt following Chance Brady’s departure. Tufts replaces Brady with Dominic Borelli ’19, who has 73 carries and 2 scores in his first two seasons with the Jumbos. Ryan McDonald ’19 will be the quarterback again for the Jumbos as he is an ideal dual threat QB, finding the end zone 5 times on the ground and 5 in the air last season.

Chance Brady was one of the most potent offensive forces in recent NESCAC memory. Tufts will be hard pressed to replace him this season.

Mike Miller ‘18 leads their wide out core. Miller is a deep ball threat any time he is lined out wide, as he has speed and the ability to go up and grab the football. If the Jumbos are able to put up anything close to the offensive numbers they did last season, (31.5 PPG) they are a strong favorite to win the NESCAC in 2017.

Special teams will be a lot different for Tufts in 2017. They lose, now Duke University and 1st Team Kicker/Punter Willie Holmquist. Behind Brady, Holmquist was 2nd on the team in scoring in 2016, showing the value he added to their 7-1 season.

Defensive MVP: D-Line

The Tufts D-Line returns three returners in Thomas ’18, Harrison ’18, and Adickes ’18. These men are the spark to the deep Tufts defense, all having All-Conference accolades in the past two seasons. Harrison is their go to big body in the middle, Addickes can be a hybrid of a pass rusher/run stopper, and Thomas is known for his effectiveness off the edge in passing situations. Expect these three to be big contributors to the already stacked defense.

Offensive MVP: O-Line

Yes, I know our award winning writers love singling out players for these awards, but the Tufts O-line is a major reason they have had success in recent years. Thibeault ’19 leads this group after missing pretty much all of last year after the 1st play of their night opener against Wesleyan. Tufts has a relatively inexperienced offense, putting more pressure on the O-Line to pave the way for the rest of the offense.

Biggest Game: September 23 @ Wesleyan

Everyone was probably thinking it would be Trinity or Amherst, both at Home, but Week 2 @ Wesleyan will set the tone for the rest of the season. In 2016, Tufts came back to beat Wesleyan in the 4th quarter in the first ever night game at Tufts. This destroyed Wesleyan’s NESCAC Title hopes as they eventually made a push at the title, but 1 can be detrimental in an eight/nine game schedule. Expect this game to have even more intensity than last season as both teams knows very well this could be make or break in their push to the NESCAC Championship.

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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.