Editor’s Note: Ben Suski is a rising junior at Bowdoin, and will be coming aboard the S.S NbN as another soccer writer. Fun fact about Ben: he is 12 feet tall and weighs 576 pounds.
Amherst (1-1, 1-1) @ Williams (3-1, 2-1)
In a weekend jam-packed with NESCAC soccer, we draw our attention to a classic Little Three matchup in Williamstown this Saturday, as the Williams Ephs (3-1, 2-1) host the Amherst Mammoths (1-1, 1-1). Williams looks to bounce back after dropping their first points of the season last weekend, while Amherst aims to remind everyone why they’re the defending NESCAC Champions, after a gradual start to this year’s campaign.
The game figures to be a chess match, as both teams tout strong defenses, anchored by senior goalkeepers ready to leave it all on the field. Lee Owen ‘18 returns to net as the Mammoths’ starting keeper, and after a strong junior campaign where he allowed well under a goal per game, he’ll look to keep the Ephs off the scoreboard. His counterpart between the pipes is Bobby Schneiderman ‘18, who has been a wall in net for the Williams, allowing just one goal in the four opening games of the season. Schneiderman, playing in his first season as the team’s top choice keeper, has not let his inexperience show, and another strong performance from him against a hungry Amherst attack could cement him as a First Team Candidate.
With all of that said, defensively, the edge goes to Williams. Aside from the fact that Williams has conceded just one goal this season, they also boast a far more experienced defensive core than Amherst. The Ephs defense is lead by captain (and Burlington High School product) Tobias Muellers ’18 who has been a staple in the lineup his entire career at Williams. Aside from holding down the back line, it’s worth noting that Muellers is also a dangerous aerial threat on set pieces, and notched a pair of goals last season, so he could be a factor on both ends of the pitch Saturday.
It’s a slightly different narrative for Amherst, a squad that trots out three freshmen in the first team to help with the defensive efforts. With just two games under their belts, the lads have played considerably well, but a balanced Williams attack will be a good test this week for them. Luckily, they do have some veteran leadership in Captain Cameron Hardington ’18, who serves as a suitable opposite to Muellers, having also tallied two goals last season, along with a pair of assists.
But enough about defense. Williams has gotten firepower from seemingly all over the field this season. A team with four goals in as many games, the Ephs have had eight different players find their way onto the score sheet in some fashion. Mark Sisco-Tolomeo ’18 paced the Ephs with five goals last year, and will likely be the Mammoths’ biggest problem to cope with up front.
While Williams has spread the love on offense this year, Amherst will likely look for Fikayo Ajayi ’18 to bang in the goals this weekend. Ajayi had the match-winner against Bowdoin, the only common opponent between Amherst and Williams, and seems poised to have a breakout season. This would be massive for a team that graduated the three-headed monster of Bryce Ciambella ’17, Weller Hlinomaz ‘17, and Chris Martin ’17, who accounted for 24 goals and added another 10 assists last year.
If you are a big common opponent guy, Amherst did defeat Bowdoin two weeks ago 1-0, in the Mammoths’ home opener, and Williams fell 1-0 to that same Polar Bear team one week later on the road. It might be tempting to assume this means Amherst has the edge, but a pair of 1-0 results against another top team in the conference tells us is that this game figures to be a good one. It’s a battle of Williams’ experience vs. Amherst’s championship pedigree, and while the season is young, we may find ourselves looking back at the end of October and realizing just how pivotal this Saturday in Williamstown was.