Time for the worthy to shine and the hesitant to stumble. We are now down to eight of the finest squads in the country to battle it out for ‘Cac supremacy, and there will be no cakewalks for any team from here on out (looking at you, Tufts). This quarterfinal round presents some appealing and somewhat dangerous matchups, producing an element of added pressure that so often cripples a team’s fate in playoff soccer.
Williams (6) at Bowdoin (3), 12:30 PM
Bowdoin opens up their playoffs at home against a solid Williams team. In their first game matching up in September, the Polar Bears were able to secure a win with a late goal in the second half at home; that being said, these two teams match up very closely together. Despite Bowdoin being higher ranked in the playoff seedings, these two squads have had eerily similar seasons from a statistical point of view. They each have scored 18 goals while Bowdoin has conceded 8 compared to Williams’ 9. Despite the substance of their overall campaigns being almost identical, Bowdoin has managed to score almost two goals for every goal conceded in conference, while Williams scored one for every one against in NESCAC play. What I can garner from this is that Bowdoin has, to this point in the season, performed better against the higher quality teams compared to their Ephs opponent.
Bowdoin will have to keep relying on their stalwart defense, led by recent conference player of the week and goalkeeper Stevie Van Siclen ’18. The senior keeper has continued to be a reliable force in the net and will look to get a clean sheet in front of his home crowd. Offensively, senior Ethan Ellsworth ’18 will attempt to generate the offense for the Polar Bears, leading the team in points in the regular season.
The Ephs need to find a way to create some chances on Saturday, looking to senior Mark Sisco-Tomoleo ’18 and sophomore Bobby Fabricant ’20 to open up the play for this Williams side. In order for the Ephs to truly take advantage of Bowdoin in hostile Brunswick territory, they must take the game to the Polar Bears and pounce on them early.
Prediction: Williams 1 – Bowdoin 2
Hamilton (7) at Amherst (2), 1:00 PM
The defending conference champion Mammoths will seek to open up their title defense in the opening round of the playoffs this upcoming Saturday. Up to this point in the season, Amherst has put on an offensive display, scoring 31 goals in their 15 games played. What they will need to be cautious of is their sometimes vulnerable defense, as they were only fifth in fewest goals allowed in the conference. On the other side, the Continentals come into this game having let up the ninth fewest goals per game, meaning that if Amherst is executing their plays, the Mammoths could easily take advantage of the at-times frail Hamilton defense. In their opening matchup, and to the surprise of many, the Continentals were able to squeak out a tie against the Amherst squad. However, I bet the Mammoths will be looking to get their revenge, especially on their home turf.
For Amherst, they will need to look to standout freshman Sebastian Derby ’21, who leads the team in goals and overall points. This matchup is a good chance for Derby to get a taste of his first collegiate playoff run.
On the other side, Hamilton will call on sophomore Aidan Wood ’20 to direct this offense. If the Continentals want to make a statement in these playoffs, knocking off the defending champs would be a good start.
Prediction: Hamilton 0 – Amherst 2
Middlebury (5) at Connecticut College (4), 2:00 PM
The #4 and #5 seeds square off in this opening round of the playoffs in New London this upcoming Saturday. The Camels will look to prove why they are one of the most dominant forces in the conference, and according to their regular season stats, they are statistical stars. Conn lets in an average of about 1 goal every 2 games, while scoring about 2 times for every single game played; they are also tied for second in the conference in goals scored. I see an issue for the Panthers in this matchup, seeing as they usually give up as many goals as they score, which is definitely not a recipe for success entering the playoffs with these powerful opposing teams. In their meeting during the regular season, Conn beat the Panthers 2-1 in Vermont. If they were able to beat Middlebury away in their NESCAC opener, I have no reason to doubt that they will bring an even fiercer gameplay to the Panthers on their home field in front of a playoff crowd.
For Conn, Ben Manoogian ’19 will look to continue his exceptional play, with his team-leading 17 points. Defensively, the Camels stick freshman A.J. Marcucci ’21 between the posts, as he ranks third in the conference in saves.
As for Middlebury, the key to their offense will be sophomore Drew Goulart ’20, who leads the team in both assists (3) and goals (4). He will need to step up and try to score in front of a raucous Camel crowd.
Score Prediction: Middlebury 0 – Conn. College 2
Bates (8) at Tufts (1), 2:30 PM
The last matchup we have for you this weekend is between top-seeded Tufts and eighth-seeded Bates. Looking at the numbers, Tufts has been unstoppable this year. They have let up 1 goal the whole season, and are also leading the conference in goals per game. Their only hiccup this season came against a stingy Amherst squad, but they stepped on the throttle only harder for the second half of the season. For Bates, I think they are just enjoying the ride up to this point. They had an unbelievable win in double OT (scoring with less than 30 seconds left) against Colby to squeak into the playoffs. Hopefully they can ride that excitement into the quarterfinals and try to put up a fight against this extremely talented Jumbos squad. In their matchup during the regular season, Bates managed to put up a good fight, but lost 1-0 on their home field.
For Tufts, it is hard to name just one player that will be the key to their success. They have senior Dexter Eichhorst ’18, sophomore Gavin Tasker ’20, and senior keeper Bruce Johnson ’18, who has yet to let in a goal all season.
As for the Bates squad, they have the conference leader in points in Nate Merchant ’21, and also defensive lockdown stud Morgan Dewdney ’19. Hopefully these two can will this Bobcats team to a strong effort against this Tufts powerhouse.
Bates (5-2-1, 2-1-1) vs. Connecticut College (7-1-1, 4-1-1), New London, CT, 11:30 AM
It takes a big man to admit failure. Well, I can say that I’m five times a big man because I went 0-5 in my predictions last week. Each game proved to be a nail-bitter with a single goal being the difference maker in both games. This is why we love sports. On any given weekend, a team can put on a spectacle for avid sports fan, and pull off a shocker. Without Williams playing this weekend, the spotlight can be put on other games.
Once again, the game of the week features the Conn College Camels. After a devastating goal against on an Eph corner kick in overtime last weekend, the Camels lost their undefeated season bid. The Camels came ever so close to upsetting the Ephs on their homecoming weekend, and becoming the only undefeated team left in the ‘Cac. They might have a shot of redemption against Williams in the NESCAC playoffs. Nevertheless, the Camels can’t dwell on the loss, and must turn the page because a very strong Bates team is traveling to New London on Saturday. This weekend is also homecoming for the Camels, so they have to show that they’re one of the league’s best to make the alumni proud. After last weekend, the Camels still rank second in the conference in GF (goals for). This statistic illustrates the wealth of offense the Camels possess. Their diversified offense helps them against stellar defensive teams because when one player gets shutdown, it’s next woman up.
However, Conn really showed its defensive potential against the high-powered Ephs last weekend. Williams normally scores two to three goals per game in conference play. The Camels held them to only one goal including an overtime period. G Bryanna Montalvo ‘18 has shown veteran leadership and steady play in net; she’s a rock back there— ranking in the top five in save percentage and leading the league in wins. Before the Williams game, I thought Conn’s only chance of beating Williams was outscoring them. The Camels proved to me and the world that they have as much fire-power on defense as they do on offense.
The Bobcats come into Saturday with a loss as well against Trinity, respectively. This loss shocked me because Bates has played so well, and has won tight games. Their defense and opportune offense led them to a road-win win against Wesleyan, but Trinity’s offense last weekend proved to be too much for them. Olivia Amdur ‘19 ranks third in the ‘Cac in points, but she seems like one of the only offensive inputs for the Bobcats. The rest of the offensive needs to step up and rally behind Amdur if they want to compete with the well-rounded Camels. G Sarah McCarthy ‘18 leads goalies in the NESCAC in all major statistical categories, but we saw against Trinity that if the opposing teams build a lead against the Bobcats, they have trouble coming back. The squad does, however, have a game against one-third of the CBB rivalry tonight (10/4) in the form of Bowdoin. A win here could give a much needed boost to the Bobcats offense against a mediocre Bowdoin defense.
UPDATE: The Bobcats defense fell flat against Bowdoin, surrendering too many shots and too many goals in a 3-2 loss. If they play like the against Conn, it will be a blowout, but I’m banking on them coming back hungry and ready to get back on track.
I picked this game as the game of the week because of the potential both teams show to knock off presumptive favorite Williams. If I were the Ephs come playoff time, I would be very nervous facing either of these two teams. Bates has already tied the Ephs, while the Camels were edged on a ‘soft’ Eph goal in overtime. Like we saw last weekend, anything can happen on any given Saturday in the NESCAC. A win in this came will be a shot of confidence for both teams, and keep them in the upper-echelon of the league with Williams. Even though I really like Bates’ road play and defensive game, the Camels’ consistency will be too much for them.
As we move into the fourth weekend of NESCAC play, the teams start to recognize the significance of each game. There is room to rise, but even more room to fall. Here are my thoughts about the upcoming games, most of which have potential playoff significance.
Colby (3-3-1, 1-2-1) at Middlebury (2-2-0, 5-2-0)
Statistically up to this point, the Mules and the Panthers boast similar figures. They each have a positive goals to goals against ratio and sit in the middle of the pack in the conference standings, respectively. Middlebury, on one hand, opened up ‘Cac play with a tough draw against Conn., Amherst, and Bowdoin; all of whom look to be formidable opponents in the first half of this season. The Panthers, at times, have shown that they can muster up tenacious play, as exhibited against Amherst, but their defeats against the Camels and the Polar Bears leaves definite questions about their ability to find success in the future. Middlebury currently relies on a balanced attack led by Drew Goulart ’20 and Daniel O’Grady ’19, who are able to both score and dish out an assist when called upon. Their backs Peter Davis ’19 and Aidan Robinson ’20 continue to help out senior keeper Jeremy Yeager ’18; all three will need to maintain their focus against a Mules team that has struggled to manufacture to this point.
Speaking of the Mules, this Colby team has surprised followers and continues to battle against intimidating competition. They took the defending national champion Jumbos into OT, tied the current conference leading Camels, and shutout Trinity in a decisive 2-0 victory. That being said, that amounts to only one victory, and in this league, you need points to be successful. Yes, they have faced very tough competition (their other game was a 1-0 loss to 4th-in-conference Williams), so they should not hit the panic button just quite yet. I expect this game will be a closely contested match all the way through. Asa Berolzheimer ’20 and Jansen Aoyama ’19 lead this Mules offense, and will look to get on the other end of a Kyle Douglas ’19 pass (Douglas leads team with 3 assists). At the end of it all, the result from this match will help paint a much clearer picture of each team’s capabilities.
Prediction: Colby 1 – Middlebury 2
Wesleyan (1-2-0) at Hamilton (5-2-0)
The struggle for the Cardinals up to this point has been maintaining their great level of play against out-of-conference teams in their NESCAC matches. They have shown they have the talent and the pieces needed to develop a quality season, but they need to show more flair and play with less hesitancy. In their two conference losses, they failed to score a goal against both Bowdoin and Tufts. Only against Bates were they able to net 4, but this is coming against a Bobcats squad that is less than stellar defensively. The Cardinals depend on recent conference Player of the Week (Harold and) Komar Martinez-Paiz ’19 to preserve their inconsistent offense. Additionally, the team has a constantly reliable backfield composed of Teddy Lyons ’19, Nick Jackson ’18, and keeper Brian Harnett ’18. Wesleyan cannot keep relying on their defense to win these games, as they can only do so much work before the opposing pressure breaks through.
Hamilton, similarly, comes into this game looking to turn their season around. The Continentals have definitely not given their best performances, as they suffered stinging losses to Bates, Middlebury, and Conn. College. The main focus for Hamilton this weekend will be their offense, as they have scored only two goals in their four conference games. They need their strikers Jefri Schmidt ’20 and Matt Casadei ’19 to tally up some points against the Cardinals, but that gets a lot harder when looking at the strength of the Wesleyan defense. Playing at home, the Continentals look to give their fans something to cheer about as each team fights to jump up the conference table.
Prediction: Wesleyan 3 – Hamilton 1
Trinity (0-5-0, 1-6-0) at Bates (1-1-1, 3-1-1)
The Bantams head up to Lewiston this upcoming Saturday as both teams seek to redirect the path of their seasons. For Trinity, they simply need to find a way to score in conference games. They have netted only 1 goal in five conference games (just taaaap it in). In those five games, they have also conceded 9 goals, which must seem like a giant mountain to climb over every time they give up a goal considering they cannot really find a way to score. The Bantams have managed to score out of conference, placing 7 goals in the back of the net in seven non-conference games, so they have shown they have the ability to score. Hoping to tally some goals this weekend for Trinity is Bantams points leader Cody Savonen ’18, who has scored half of the team’s goals this season.
Defensively, Trinity will need Henry Belt ’21 and Mateo Zabala ’18 to be on top of their game to thwart the Bobcats. Hosting the Bantams this weekend is Bates, who, unlike its opponent, maintains a solid goals to goals against ratio. The Bobcats have scored 5 goals and let up 6 in conference. I would not necessarily say that these are favorable numbers, but the goals-for stat shows some merit when comparing it to the Bantams’. Leading the charge for Bates is senior Nate Merchant ’18, who has scored 5 of the team’s eleven goals for the season. He will be backed by senior Max Watson, sophomore Julien Williamson, and juniors Sam Huebschmann ’19 and Robbie Montanaro ’19. I have got to give the edge to this Bates squad, as they have shown they can manufacture goals in the heat of conference competition.
Prediction: Trinity 0 – Bates 2
Connecticut College (3-0-2, 6-0-2) at Williams (2-1-2, 4-1-2)
As the current leaders of the conference, Conn must continue to prove their worth. The Camels have a very young roster, which will get only better the more they play together. Freshman Liam Noonan ’21 and junior Ben Manoogian ’19 lead this Conn. offense, an attack that is currently averaging close to 3 goals per game; however, this statistic decreases to just over 1 goal per game against conference opponents. The Camel defense has been extremely solid, averaging 0.59 goals against per game, which is easy to believe considering they have stalwart and lone starting-senior Nate Summers ’18 defending for the team. Conn. College’s only real test up to this point has been the Tufts Jumbos, which ended in a 0-0 draw.
Williams will be looking to place the first loss in the Camel’s season as they play host this weekend. The Ephs crew has enjoyed quite a lot of success so far in their campaign, with their only stint coming from a loss at Bowdoin. Despite their adequate offensive numbers, they truly excel on the defensive side of the ball. Senior Tobias Muellers ‘18 and Bobby Schneiderman ‘18 have been locking down offenses throughout the 2017 season. The Ephs boast 0.54 goals against per game, and will hope to shutdown this pesky Camels attack. Look for this matchup to be closely contested until the final whistle.
Prediction: Conn. College 2 – Williams 1
GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts (3-0-1, 6-0-1) at Amherst (1-1-1, 2-1-1)
If you looked at this matchup a year ago, or even at the beginning of this season for that matter, it would have appeared to be one of the best collegiate games all year in Division III. However, Amherst has gotten off to a slow start, at least to their typical standards. They have shown that they can compete with the best, (see: their victory against Bowdoin)St but they have also shown that they can let the game get away from them, as seen when they hosted and lost to Middlebury. The Mammoths need a turning point to their season, a jolt that can propel them atop the ‘Cac standings. This game is their chance. Luckily for Amherst, the team has shown that they do not have to rely on a single player to score goals. In fact, 7 Mammoths have found the back of the net this season for Amherst, but they have scored only 2 goals in 3 three conference games. Their defense has been very trustworthy, with help from Sean Fitzgerald ’19, Cutler Coleman ’20, and freshman Bryce Johnson ’21. Together, this backline averages less than half a goal per game. Considering that this team is going up against the penetrating Jumbo offense, the defense will need to stick together.
The Jumbos, on the other side of the ticket, have been relatively unstoppable. They have not lost a game to this point and, more impressively, have not even given up a goal. Their defense has yet to falter thanks to seniors Conor Coleman ’18 and Matt Zinner ‘18, and junior Sterling Weatherbie ’19 (fantastic name). These three must continue their focus if they want their clean sheets to keep rolling in. Despite the Mammoths’ struggles to this point, I expect them to unnerve Tufts with their home field advantage, and actually sneak one past that unyielding Tufts defense.
Following 1-0 defeats this past weekend, both Wesleyan and Hamilton look to get off the snide this Friday. Against Bates on Saturday, Wesleyan still exhibited signs of great defense, but limited execution on the offensive end. As I predicted last weekend, the game was determined by a bounce one way or another. Unsuccessful Wesleyan corners in the first-half opened the door for Bates to put one into the back of the net later on in the game. Similarly, Hamilton’s loss to the undefeated Camels proved to be a tightly competitive game, but a bounce here and there led to the Continental’s defeat. Cat Gambino ‘18 leads the team in goals thus far, and will be the difference maker if Hamilton wants to ascend in the NESCAC standings. However, look for a sense of assertiveness in the eyes of the Cards as they look for their first league win. This will be a defensive-minded game, but I think Wes will be playing for their lives.
Predicted Score: Wesleyan 1-0.
Colby vs Middlebury (Middlebury, VT, 11:00)
The Mules will leave Waterville with some desperation in their eyes as they look to pick up that ever elusive first conference win. Olivia Greif ‘21 still stands tall in all three of the NESCAC major statistical offensive categories. She is in the top five in goals, assists and points. Mostly because of Greif, the Mules have proven that they can generate some offense with an above average GFA, but also have a less than stellar GAA. Middlebury, in contrast, plays a defensive-minded game. Keeper Ursula Alwang ‘20 has done a solid job between the pipes, and the Panthers have several strong defenders. Like Wesleyan, I think Colby will go on the road with a similar mentality with the goal to pick up their first conference win. Look for Greif to be a difference maker on the offensive end on the pitch.
Predicted Score: 1-0 Colby
Trinity vs Bates (Lewiston, ME, 11:00 AM)
The Bantams and Bobcats are riding high after squeaking out 1-0 victories, respectively, this past weekend. In any sport, the strength of a team is measured in its mental toughness. Grinding out a 1-0 win illustrates this mental toughness. Bates made that long drive to Middletown to defeat the Cardinals in a nail-bitter. Caroline Bogue’s (‘21) goal provided the offense, while clutch defense against some dangerous Wesleyan corner-kicks sealed the game. In even bigger news, the Bobcats tied the undefeated Ephs on Sunday. It’s not just Williams and Amherst at the top of the pack this year; Bates has shown that they can truly compete with anybody. The Bantams look to stay hot coming off a 1-0 win against Colby. Like Bates, Trinity won a close game on the road–the sign of a good team. Led to victory by a goal from Tricia Pollock ‘20, Trinity looks to seize another road win. However, Bates will ride the momentum from the Wesleyan win and the Williams tie to victory. I’m taking Bates.
Predicted Score: 2-0 Bates
Tufts vs Amherst (Amherst, MA, 12:00 PM)
Amherst has to be kicking themselves after how close its defeat was to Williams. A win at a Williams homecoming would’ve proved to be incredibly sweet in front of all the Eph alumni. As an eighth seed right now in the NESCAC, this game is almost a must-win for Amherst. Hannah Guzzi ‘18 leads the entire league in goals; she’s the best offensive weapon in the league, and needs to put the team on her back like Greg Jennings did. Coming into the season with high expectations, a win here would push the Mammoths in the right direction. The Jumbos are undefeated–albeit with two ties. Emily Bowers ’19 has come into her own, and she has shown the league that she’s one of its best keepers. The Needham, MA, native (the best town in the country– no prejudice), ranks second in save percentage. Even though she’s a rock in net, Amherst will come out on top in this must-win game:
Predicted Score: 2-1 Amherst.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Connecticut College vs Williams (Williamstown, MA, 12:00 PM)
Alas, we’ve finally come to the best game of the week: the Conn Camels vs the Williams Ephs. Conn’s performance this year has been incredible. A sleeper to begin the year, the Camels simply keep winning games. Much of their success can be attributed to their wealth of assets. Kat Norton ‘21 and Mackenzie Kingston ‘18 cannot be stopped on the offensive end. Norton is top three in the league in goals, and Kingston is top five in assists. Tieing Bates after a great win against Amherst has to be a wakeup call for the Ephs that there are many competitive teams in the NESCAC. Alison Lu ‘20 leads the Ephs offense. She is one of the best players in Division III soccer–ranking third in the NESCAC in goals. However, the most impressive Eph feat is that they rank first in all of the offensive major metrical categories. And by all I mean ALL; points, goals, assists, GFA, they’re dominant. However, the Camels have opened eyes all season and won’t stop here. Look for Conn to pull off the shocker:
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Editor’s Note: I’m VERY excited to have two welcomes to make in this note. First, we have to welcome Peter Delalio to the NbN. Peter is a rising junior on the Wesleyan baseball team, and enjoys moonlit strolls and peanut butter. Secondly, we get to welcome men’s soccer to the list of sports to which we give that special NbN shine. We’re very excited to be a step closer to our ultimate goal of covering every sport in the CAC, but the main obstacle to that is writers. So if you want to start covering soccer (or any other sport,) email email@example.com. Alright let’s get to the article.
Fall is back, and it’s time for the World’s most popular sport to return to NESCAC play, and make its debut on NbN. NESCAC has become one of the better soccer leagues in the country, consistently sending multiple teams to the NCAA tournament, so we should be geared up for an entertaining 2017 in the soccer world.
A nationally ranked team and defending champion of the league. Amherst has certainly proven its moxie with its impactful play over the past few years. In conference games last year, the Mammoths led the league in goals in what developed into a display of offensive prowess and sheer dominance, averaging 2.3 goals per game in conference. Leading the attack this year will be Weller Hlinomaz ’18 and midfielder Dane Lind ’20; both will be in charge of filling in for some key losses due to graduation. On the defensive side of the ball, Amherst will be returning senior goalkeeper Lee Owen ’18. The Mammoths will have an early test of their defensive ability seeing as they return only two of their defenders from last year. The defending champs will seek to prove that their young guns can get the job done as they open up play against Bowdoin at home.
The Bobcats squad will need to strengthen their play against NESCAC opponents for a successful campaign this season. First things first, they will look to bolster their less than adequate defense from last season to combat the offensive powerhouses throughout the conference. Bates ranked last in conference play last year in goals against, coming in at an average of 1.72 goals per game. This makes their attack that much less effective knowing that other teams will be pressuring their defense constantly. Luckily for Bates, they return experienced defenders in Antonio Heredia Soto ’20, Max Watson ’18, Julien Williamson ’20, and goalkeeper Robbie Montanaro ’19. Hopefully these four will be able to provide the backbone that this Bobcats team needs. Offensively, Bates will rely on Nate Merchant ‘18 and Eric Opuku ’20. We will see if these two can get the Bobcats off on the right foot when they take on Hamilton in the opening weekend.
One of Bowdoin’s biggest strengths in the 2016 season was their ability to score. Fortunately for the Polar Bears, and unfortunately for their opponents, they are returning their top goal scorer Moctar Niang ’19. He tallied a total of 13 points, scoring 6 goals to go along with 1 assist. Speaking of assists, the Bowdoin squad also brings back leadership in Ethan Ellsworth ‘18, who tallied a team high 6 assists; when coupled with his 4 goals for the season, he also led the team in points. Leadership will be a crucial ingredient for a successful team this year. Along with Ellsworth, the Polar Bears return midfielders Wilson MacMillan ’19, Sam Ward ’19, and goalie Stevie Van Siclen ’19. Hopefully this senior group has what it takes to get their team to that next level, as they will look to improve on their NESCAC semifinal finish last season.
The Colby team definitely had their struggles last year, finishing second to last in conference. The Mules are hoping for a bounce back year, and hopefully their resurgence can be fueled by offense. Out of the 11 conference teams, Colby finished tied for last in goals scored versus its NESCAC opponents. Kyle Douglas ’19 led the Mules last year in goals scored with 3, so he and the rest of the team need to find a way to break through their low ceiling and exceed their competitions’ expectations. Colby has the majority of their roster returning this year, losing only two players to graduation. This experience will serve only to benefit the Mules, and they perhaps might even surprise a few teams.
The Camels had a solid season last year, finishing tied for 4th in conference play. However, they will be losing their top goal threat and points leader, so the younger forwards will have to carry the burden of filling some gaps. Juniors Chris Lockwood ’19 and Ben Manoogian ‘19 will seek to lead the Camel offense. Scoring a combined 13 goals a season ago, these two need to remain productive on the attack. Leading assist man Ousmane Dieng ’18 will add a much-needed balance to the offense, and might even add a couple more goals himself. Defensively, the Camels will look to replace a graduated goalie, but will return defensive stalwarts Nate Summers ’18 and Tyler Hoadley ’19 to help make that transition all that much more smooth for the new keeper.
The big story for the Panthers this season is the announcement of long-time coach David Saward’s retirement at the conclusion of this season (assistant Alex Elias ’08 will take over). He will have spent 33 years at the helm of the men’s soccer program, but hopefully this will not distract the players from the goal at hand (Editor’s second Note: nice one Pete.) Middlebury seeks to return to their former glory days as national champions just under a decade ago, but seeing how they finished 6th in the conference last season, they certainly have their work cut out for them. A key for the Panthers this year will be maintaining their high level of play against conference opponents. They averaged 1.8 goals per game outside of NESCAC games, and just .9 in them. Middlebury has shown that they can create chances with returners like Daniel O’Grady ’19 and Drew Goulart ’20, so they are definitely capable of finding the back of the net. Peter Davis ’19 will lead their defense, and will attempt to stymie Conn in the opening weekend.
(Editor’s Final Note: Look at this sweet goal from Middlebury sophomore Shams Mohajerani. #3 on the Sportscenter Top Ten!)
The defending national champs have a huge target on their back coming into this season. They received the #1 overall ranking in the country, so they definitely have a lot to live up to. In conference play last season, the Jumbos managed to score 16 goals while giving up only 6. Tufts returns playmakers Dexter Eichhorst ’18 and Kevin Halliday ’18, who will aim to facilitate scorer Gavin Tasker ’20. It is worth noting that the Jumbos will be losing their top point scorer and their reliable barrier of a keeper, but they certainly have the means to fill in those gaps. The Jumbos are expected to have another strong campaign, and will aim to give their home fans plenty to cheer about in their first conference matchup against Colby.
The Cardinals’ 2016 season was certainly not up to their usual standards. They finished last in conference, and let too many games get away from them. Wesleyan has shown they are capable of beating the best, however, as they defeated Amherst in 2015 and Tufts last season, both of whom went on to win the national championship. Their defense will surely need to improve, which becomes much easier when you have lockdown players like Teddy Lyons ’19, Nick Jackson ’18, and Camden McCusker ’19 to help out. These guys will be the key to starting the offense. Up front for the Cardinals, seniors Adam Cowie-Haskell ’18 and Garrett Hardesty ’18 will lead the attack, while junior Komar Martinez-Paiz ’19 will return from injury and prove why he was so sorely missed a season ago. The Cardinals get their season started at Bowdoin a week from this Saturday.
The Ephs had a pleasant 2016 season. They finished 3rd in the conference, scoring 17 goals and letting up only 11 against NESCAC opponents. Williams now wants to jump to the next level, and to do so, they must strengthen their defense. The Ephs are losing 6 of their starting 11 from last year, meaning that the younger guys must step up. Tobias Muellers ‘18 and Sean Dory ’19 must remain reliable on the back end of the squad. These two will be responsible for setting the tone against opponents, and will give confidence to their offense. One man on the offensive side of the ball, who will be huge for the success of this team, is senior striker Mark Sisco-Tolomeo ’18. He was tied for the lead in goals scored from last season, and will hope to progress even more.
After a deep run into the playoffs a season ago, the Continentals will look to build on their success as they start conference play against Bates in the opening weekend. Hamilton will depend on senior Matt Cerveny ’18 to carry the load, who will be thrust into a leadership position after having lost key players to graduation. As a team that has lost goal threats, the Continentals will need to be strong defensively; this burden will be taken on by senior Eli Lichtman ’18, a seasoned vet who will provide much needed experience to this young squad. Hamilton has a great foundation to build upon, allowing only 10 goals while scoring 13. If they wish to repeat another far run into the playoffs, the Continentals must keep up their gritty play this season.
This season, the Bantams are going to need to find a way to generate offense. Having scored the 3rdleast goals in conference play a year ago, and also losing their top 3 points scorers to graduation, Trinity will have to rely on sophomore Henry Farr ’20 to create the chances. Having started in only 7 of the Bantams’ 17 games, Farr was still able to grab 7 points coming off the bench. On defense, Trinity will look to Alex Steel ’19 and Michael Burns ’20 to turn the tide and be the reliable backs this Bantams team so desperately need. Trinity opens up NESCAC play against Williams in the opening weekend.
Editor’s note: this article was written before Friday’s games and therefore does not take the Friday results into account.
Colby at Wesleyan
The 2016-17 season has been a tough one for Colby. They’re 1-7 in conference and haven’t had a realistic shot of making the playoffs for at least a couple of weeks. At this point, they’re only playing for their dignity. Wesleyan on the other hand, could vault themselves into a top four seed with a couple of wins this weekend. Colby only has a single player averaging at least 8 points a game in Senior Patrick Stewart, and he gets 16.3. Unfortunately for Colby, Stewart hasn’t had the weapons around him to make the Mules much of a threat. Wesleyan, on the other hand, has benefited from a balanced attack with five players scoring ten points per contest. Backing up their offense has been their stifling defense, which allows their opponents to shoot a league leading (and second in all of DIII) 35% from the field. Colby’s only shot here is to capitalize on Wesleyan’s propensity to turn the ball over as they do so a NESCAC leading 15.4 times per game. If the Mules can convert sloppy turnovers into fast breaks, they could pick up a couple of easy buckets and score without bearing the brunt of Wesleyan’s stingy defense. However, chances are, this is not going to happen, and Colby (with a Friday loss) will end the season with a single NESCAC victory. :’(
Bowdoin at Connecticut College
This season, Bowdoin’s Forward Jack Simonds ‘19 has been phenomenal. He’s averaging nearly 19 points per game and he’s dropped 30+four times this season. Don’t forget, he’s only a sophomore. He has carried a huge load for his team, leading the NESCAC in minutes played. However, as a whole Bowdoin has not been able to put together wins as often as they’d like. The Polar Bears are in line to finish with one of the three worst records in the NESCAC. Looking at the home team,Conn hasn’t been much better; they too have a very slim chance of making the playoffs, and have only fared one game better than the Polar Bears this season. Though this game may not matter for the playoffs, a win would allow either team to end their season on a positive note. Despite Bowdoin’s lack of success in the win column, they don’t foul, and they don’t turn the ball over. Their team is young and there should be optimism moving forward. They’re going up against a Conn team who’s used to taking their lumps (pun intended) as the Camels are last in the ‘CAC in FG defense and they give up the most points per game. I think Bowdoin’s defensive strugglesput Jack Simonds in a great position to lead his team to end the season on a positive note and possibly hang up his fifth 30-spot, despite losing five of their last six NESCAC games. Bowdoin has a terrific scorer in Simonds who I think gives them the edge over the Camels.
Trinity at Middlebury
This is probably the best Saturday matchup as both teams are in the top half of the NESCAC and enter the game with their best players being tried and true veterans. Shout it from the mountaintops Panther fans, like the Chicago Cubs, you are good. Entering the weekend, they’ve won 5 in a row and have shown no signs of slowing down, vaulting themselves into the conversation for best team in the NESCAC. This charge has been led by their incredibly potent backcourt play. In their senior campaign, backcourt duo Matt St. Amour and Jake Brown have been dynamite. St. Amour leads the NESCAC in scoring (20.6 PPG) and Brown holds the conference lead in assists (6.7 AST/G). Trinity, on the other hand, has probably the most prolific double double machine in the NESCAC in Ed Ogundeko ‘17, who averages 17.7 and 11.5 from the center position. Without a real rim protecting big the Panthers can lean on, Ogundeko is liable to cause some havoc in the paint on Saturday. Trinity likely will not be able to outscore Middlebury’s uptempo attack, so they’ll need to find a way to either slow them down and take them out of their rhythm or try to coax the Panthers into some sloppy play. The latter is unlikely since Middlebury holds the best turnover ratio in the conference, so Trinity’s best bet to limit Middlebury’s outside attack is to try to control the tempo early and pound the ball inside to their star. With Middlebury at home and on such a roll, I think Brown and St. Amour get a little saucy and lead the Panthers to victory in Hartford.
Amherst at Hamilton
This game is undoubtedly a huge undertaking for the Continentals. Amherst has had an excellent regular season and they are sitting pretty for home-court in at least the first round of the playoffs. Their leading scorer is Guard Jayde Dawson ’18, who’s getting almost 18.6 per contest in under 30 minutes of action. Despite his prolific scoring, he’s only started two games this year, and that’s not a knock on him, it just goes to show how deep this team is. Also, wing Johnny McCarthy ’18 is coming off of a Player of the Week award averaging 15.5 points and 13.5 boards. He’s one of the best rebounders in the NESCAC, averaging 8 per game on the year, especially impressive considering he spends much of his time around the perimeter. Hamilton’s wing play has been equally impressive. Underclassmen Peter Hoffman ’19, Michael Grassey ’19, and Kena Gilmour ’20 all present significant threats on the wing for the Continentals. All have been solid, but Hoffman’s performances have been consistently above and beyond. Another great rebounding and scoring wing, he has reached double digit scoring in all but two games this year and shoots 55.8% from the field. Hamilton is a strong team and has been even better at home, but Amherst’s consistency and pedigree is hard to deny. In a couple years, as Hamilton’s young stars mature, and their bench gets deeper, this might be a different story. However, as long as Amherst brings their A game, they should be able to come out on top.
Williams at Bates
In Sunday’s only game, two middling teams meet in icy Maine to try to right their ships. Both teams are likely playoff bound, but are neck and neck for the opportunity to avoid juggernaut Tufts in the first round. Bates’ success this season is due in large part to their literal twin towers. Twin big men, Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche ’18, put up nearly 30 points and 20 boards between the two of them, and both rank in the top five of NESCAC rebounding. They are a force to be reckoned with, as just a couple weeks ago, Marcus was named the NESCAC player of the week. These two should be a tough challenge for Williams to handle come Sunday for the Ephs. Though they tote a near seven-footer in sophomore Michael Kempton, he lacks the athleticism and identical twin to contain them both. Every time I watch Williams I come away with more confusion than clarity as to their level of play because they play very slowly, but take so many threes (almost half of their total field goal attempts). Generally speaking, the less you play in transition, the harder it is to get good looks at three pointers because you allow the defense to get set. Despite this, the Ephs continue to fire away in their half-court sets and still make a somewhat respectable 35% as a team. With an impressive win against Amherst, and a confounding loss to Bowdoin, it’s really hard for me to tell where they stand. Williams is gonna take their threes, but they’ll need to figure out how to contain Bates’ inside threat. If the Ephs can drain from beyond the arc, they’ll have a great chance to win, but I think Bates’ home-court advantage and opportunity for rest while Williams plays on Friday should set them up for a victory on Sunday.
Wesleyan (15-4, 3-3) @ Connecticut College (11-7, 2-4), New London, CT 3:00 PM, Saturday, January 28th
The “Battle for Connecticut” is not, as I originally thought, a sci-fi movie about 30-foot tall white families duking it out in Hartford. It is instead this game, which features two teams sitting in precarious positions in the league rankings. Connecticut College has a couple impressive wins under their belt, an overtime thriller over Amherst, and a demolition of Bates in Alumni Gym. But they also have four losses and have shown an inability to score against elite defenses (see their 70-52 loss to Trinity.) And Wesleyan is certainly an elite defense. It has been that side of the ball that allowed them to recover from their 0-2 start. The Cardinals are now 3-3, and gave Tufts their toughest test of league play so far in a 77-73 loss. They only allow opponents to shoot 34.7% from the field, which is among the national leaders and leads the conference by a considerable margin. The Camels will need to prove that they can score against the best in order to have a chance in this game.
Wesleyan X-Factor: Jordan Sears ‘18
It’s not a coincidence that Wesleyan has won both the league games that Sears has started. At 6’5″ and 200 pounds, Sears is defensive and rebounding menace, averaging 1.2 blocks and 4.6 rebounds per game despite only playing 17 minutes. He has started against Trinity and Bates, who boast the two best big men in the league in Ed Ogundeko and Malcolm Delpeche respectively. Sears was the key to not letting those stars own the paint against Wesleyan. I would expect him to play a similar role against Zuri Pavlin ‘17 and Daniel Janel ‘17, Connecticut College’s two excellent forwards.
Sears’ starting spot has another benefit for the Cardinals in that it pushes Nathan Krill ‘18 to the bench. That may read like a jab at Krill, but let me explain. Krill may well be Wesleyan’s best offensive player, but his volatile temper makes it difficult for him to remain on the floor at times. Bringing him off the bench makes it easier for Coach Reilly to control his star forward. It also gives the often-dead Wesleyan second unit some needed scoring punch, and allows Krill to beat up on slower second unit players. Sears starting has been a key to Wesleyan’s turnaround.
Connecticut College X-Factor: Isaiah Robinson ‘18
Wesleyan is a team that will try to beat you up, particularly in the paint. Connecticut College is well equipped to hit back, but they will also need to hit from the perimeter, as Wesleyan has shown themselves to not be able to keep up in a faster paced offensive game. Robinson combines those two responsibilities. Robinson is 6’5” and built like a linebacker, giving him more than enough strength to push back when Krill and Joseph Kuo ‘17 try to body him in the paint. But he also has quick feet and can stretch the floor, shooting 38.6% from three. Robinson will need to be an offensive threat in this game to pull the Wesleyan big men away from the basket and open things up for Pavlin and Janel to do their work inside. And he may also draw the critical task of getting in Nathan Krill’s head and forcing him into foul trouble.
Who Needs it More:
Wesleyan has done a terrific job climbing back into the upper half of the league, and of course needs to continue playing well in order to stay there. This is a crucial game for them, as they travel to Williams and Amherst next weekend. They need the freedom to lose one of those games and still be in contention for a high seed. But Connecticut College still needs this one more. In the ever-shifting NESCAC landscape, the difference between 3-4 and 2-5 is difficult to overstate. The Camels have done great work getting over the…barrier (not going to make the “hump” pun again) and being relevant this season, but this game is the key to them remaining there.
Starting Jordan Sears has freed up Nathan Krill and strengthened Wesleyan’s defense in the paint against elite big men, but it also puts more pressure on the perimeter players in the starting lineup. Sears is aggressively non-threatening on offense, allowing opposing teams to sag off on him and double the primary ball handlers Salim Green ‘19 and Harry Rafferty ‘17. This has forced Kevin O’Brien ‘19 to step up as a scoring threat. He has done this admirably at times, scoring 20 and 19 back-to-back against Hamilton and Amherst. When teams leave Sears alone and key in on Green and Rafferty, O’Brien has to be ready to step up and be a scoring threat, or else Wesleyan simply doesn’t have enough offense.
Three point shooting will be the most important stat for Connecticut College in this game. They can’t beat Wesleyan in bar-room brawl in the paint, the Cardinals’ win over Trinity proved that no one can. They need to stretch the floor and speed the Wesleyan up. They have showed the tendency to make mistakes on offense and defense when they are forced the play faster than their preferred pace. Lee Messier ‘18 will need to shoot a little better than his 33% yearly rate, and Robinson and David Labossiere ‘19 will also need to knock a couple down.
Wesleyan comes into this game with all the momentum, and would probably be favored in Vegas if bookies out there cared about NESCAC sports at all. But Connecticut College matches up very well with the Cardinals. They have outside threats to spread out the Wesleyan defense, and forwards who can bang with the Special K’s (Kuo and Krill.) This should be hard fought, low scoring battle, featuring a lot of rebounds and fouls. In other words, a terrific viewing experience, and Wesleyan’s specialty. I think the Cardinals pull it out.
The opening weekend of NESCAC play was one of extremes. No team finished 1-1, marking out a clear top and bottom tier. Five teams sit at 2-0,and five teams sit at 0-2, with Trinity and Amherst lucking out with only one game over the first weekend and sitting at 1-0. Obviously it’s too early to make assumptions about whether the tiers we see right now will last throughout the season, but there are some interesting threads that should be monitored going forward. Will Middlebury be fine even without Zach Baines? Will Wesleyan make the tournament? Is Ed Ogundeko Shaq’s son? All these stories and more will continue into Friday night’s games, so let’s get into them.
Writer’s Note: This article is a little rushed as I had to spend most of the day yesterday apologizing to various fans for Rory putting Amherst at #1 in the Power Rankings even though they’ve lost two of four. So just keep that in mind.
GAME OF THE WEEK: #15 Middlebury (11-1, 2-0) @ #6 Tufts (11-2, 2-0)
7:00 PM, Medford, Massachusetts
First of all, this is obviously going to be a difficult game for me. On one side we have Middlebury, which is of course my hometown, and watching the basketball team as I grew up has been arguably the most influential factor in becoming the person I am today. And on the other side we have Tufts, the team I hate with all my heart. The list of wrongs done unto me by Tufts University is too long and horrible to replicate here on a family blog. I’ll just say that Tufts is the Count Olaf to my Baudelaire children; constantly destroying everything I hold dear out of pure malice and spite.
That said, this should be a spectacular game. Tufts and Middlebury are both coming off very impressive opening weekends, and their strong play has been reflected in their respective climbs in the national rankings. As usual, Middlebury owes much of their success to their incredible backcourt, and particularly to the triumphant return of Matt St. Amour’s shooting stroke. After a prolonged slump, St. Amour catapulted himself back into the POY race with 52 points over the two games, including 31 in Sunday’s win over Connecticut College. More importantly, St. Amour got his buckets very efficiently, shooting 10-19 from three and needing only 30 shots to garner his 52 points. Middlebury has done a tremendous job winning games during St. Amour’s slump, but it was about time he carried them again.
Tufts made quick work of the Maine teams in the opening weekend, besting Bowdoin and Colby easily. They did it with balance; no single player had more than 20 points, but 7 players had more than 10. Tarik Smith ‘17 had a nice weekend after an inconsistent start to the season, adding a new weapon to the Jumbos’ arsenal. It was crucial for Tufts to have a good weekend starting off the year, as they had a couple bad losses to Babson and UMASS Boston that had cooled some people on their league standing. However, they had the easiest weekend of any top tier teams. This game is their first big test since Babson, and should reveal a great deal about how high the Jumbos can fly this season.
For Middlebury it has to be transition, and I mean that in multiple senses of the word. The Panthers must continue to excel in their fast-paced, perimeter orientated style on both sides of the ball. As our blogfathers Panther Nation pointed out, Middlebury may well have the best backcourt in the country, and they need to continue that excellent play to weather a lack of front court depth, at least offensively.
Speaking of the front court, that brings me to the second type of transition that will determine Middlebury’s success. Earlier this week it was announced that talented forward Zach Baines ‘19 made the decision to transfer to Occidental College in Los Angeles. This is a tremendous blow to the Panthers, as Baines was both their most versatile defender (other than Jack Daly ‘18) and a dangerous offensive weapon who was just beginning to realize his potential. His loss will obviously affect Middlebury on the court in the ways we saw last weekend. The guards, especially less prolific scorers Jake Brown ‘17 and Daly, will need to be more aggressive shooting the ball, and forwards Nick Tarantino ‘18, Matt Folger ‘20 and Eric McCord ‘19 will all compete for minutes and touches alongside Adisa Majors ‘18. It will be a fascinating subplot to follow throughout Middlebury’s season as to which big man emerges as the starter out of those three. But Middlebury will need to respond to Baines’ loss off the court as well. It can be very difficult to lose a teammate midway through the year, and no one would blame the Middlebury players for being a little down. However, they can’t afford to let it affect them against Tufts. Middlebury’s experienced leaders like Brown, St. Amour and Daly will have to handle the transition for Middlebury this weekend, in more ways than one.
For Tufts, it is more simple. Vincent Pace ’18 has to get going. A legit POY candidate when healthy, Pace has struggled for much of the season, shooting only 42% from the field and 32% from three. Admittedly he hasn’t had to play big minutes that often yet as he recovers from a knee injury, but if Tufts wants to remain in the top tier they need the old Pace back. The Jumbos can’t rely on a big weekend from Tarik Smith, as Middlebury defends the perimeter better than anyone. Tufts will need Pace’s versatile scoring ability and ball handling if they hope to knock the Panthers off track, and indeed will need it for the rest of the league play. The toughest games are still ahead.
Tom Palleschi ‘17 for Tufts has definite strength mismatches against both Tarantino and Folger. This means that we may see more of Eric McCord than the other two. If that’s the case, Middlebury may be in trouble from a fast break standpoint. The great benefit of both Tarantino and Folger is that they are weapons in transition. They can both shoot (although Folger is more of three point threat,) and they run the floor like deer. McCord is much stronger and possibly a better one-on-one matchup for Palleschi, but Middlebury sacrifices some fast break potential with him on the floor. McCord got exposed a bit by Connecticut College in terms of moving his feet defensively, and Tufts should look to do the same by putting him the pick and roll and getting him out on the break.
That said, I don’t see that Tufts has an answer for Middlebury’s guards. St. Amour is better at getting himself involved even when he’s not shooting well than Jack Simonds ‘19 for Bowdoin, and Daly and Brown are forming into an excellent offensive duo in addition to their terrifying defense. Middlebury matches up very well with Pace and Smith, and Palleschi has not yet shown himself to be capable of taking over a game.
Writers Pick: Middlebury
#5 Amherst (10-2, 1-0) @ Wesleyan (11-3, 0-2)
7:00 PM, Middletown, Connecticut
Amherst took the opening battle in the ancient Jeff-Ephs war, beating Williams in Williamstown 80-72 in a game that they had in hand throughout. They relied heavily on their dynamic backcourt of Jayde Dawson ‘18 and Johnny McCarthy ‘18, who combined for 34 points and were the only starters in double figures. The game also featured the return of the Amherst bench, as Michael Riopel ‘18, Reid Berman ‘17 and Eric Conklin ‘17 combined for 30 points and carried the offense for large stretches. One thing to watch for Amherst is their low assist numbers. They only had 9 against Williams, and 7 of those came from the three bench players. They did a nice job exploiting mismatches against the Ephs, particularly McCarthy and Conklin, but against an elite defense like Wesleyan, they may need a more sustainable style, especially since Wesleyan has a stable of long, athletic guards to throw at Dawson.
For Wesleyan, this game is as close to a must-win as one can have in the second week of league play. Wesleyan dropped both their games last weekend, on the road to Middlebury and Hamilton. Wesleyan’s elite defense broke down for them in both games, giving up 83 and then 92, but it was a simple lack of offense that really did them in. Shooting 34% from the field won’t win you any games in a deep league like the NESCAC. Wesleyan particularly needs more consistency from their guards. Salim Green ‘19 and Harry Rafferty ‘17 combined for 31 against Middlebury, but couldn’t hit water from a boat against Hamilton, shooting 3-18 from the field. Wesleyan matches up very well defensively with Amherst, as Rafferty, Green and Kevin O’Brien ‘19 provide a nice rotation to throw at McCarthy and Dawson. And the floor spacing ability of Nathan Krill ‘19 could draw David George ‘17 from the paint, opening up driving lanes. But Krill has to control his emotions enough to stay on the floor (something he decidedly couldn’t do against Middlebury,) and Wesleyan has to drive in those lanes and make shots. If they don’t their chances of making the tournament could be in serious doubt.
Writer’s Pick: Amherst
Hamilton (10-2, 2-0) @ Bates (11-3, 2-0)
7:00 PM, Lewiston, Maine
This is about as exciting a matchup as you can have from two unranked teams. Hamilton solidified their rollicking, offense-filled march to NESCAC relavance by handling both Connecticut College and then-#9 Wesleyan at home by scores of 86-70 and 92-76. The Continentals get their buckets in a variety of ways and from a variety of sources. They are led in scoring and on defense by sophomore forward Peter Hoffmann ‘19, so averages 17 a game and put up 21 (and seven blocks) against Conn College. But when Hoffmann struggled his way to 7 against Wesleyan, they more than picked up the slack. Andrew Groll ‘19 put up 20 points and 14 rebounds, and and super-subs Tim Doyle ‘19 and Kena Gilmour ‘20 led a bench attack that put up 38 points. Hamilton is young and loaded with talent, and the rest of the league should definitely be on notice.
Bates’ surprising run to relevance has been accomplished in almost the exact opposite way from Hamilton’s. They have ridden a punishing defense led by Malcolm Delpeche ‘17, who leads the league in blocks, and his twin brother Marcus, who is no defensive slouch himself. The towering Delpeche brothers allow Bates to play very aggressively on the perimeter, as either side has an eraser to wipe away their mistakes. Offensively, Bates sort of figures it out as they go. The Delpeche brothers are the keys to the offense as well, combining for 27.5 points per game. Additionally, they draw double teams in the post, leading to open three point shots. However if the pair of big men are struggling from the field, Bates doesn’t have a lot of depth to pick up the slack. They needed a stunning 23 point outburst from Tom Coyne ‘20 (who played just two minutes the night before) to scrape out 64-59 win over Bowdoin. This game is a classic good offense-good defense matchup, and factoring in the youth of Hamilton and the tremendous homecourt advantage that Bates enjoys in Alumni Gym, I see the Bobcats taking it.
Writer’s Pick: Bates
Trinity (9-5, 1-0) @ Connecticut College (8-4, 0-2)
7:00 PM, New London, Connecticut
All season it has seemed like Trinity was one other scoring option away from continuing their control of the NESCAC regular season. Ed Ogundeko ‘17 has been a total monster all season, sitting at fourth in scoring at 17.1 PPG and first in rebounding at 10.7 REB/G. But he couldn’t do it alone, and Trinity entered league play at 8-5, the most losses in the league. However, the weekend showed that Chris Turnbull ‘17 and Jeremy Arthur ‘19 have the potential to be fine running mates for Big Ed. But it also showed that on some level he can do it himself. In a non league tilt against Pine Manor, Turnbull and Arthur combined for 34 points on 11-17 shooting, providing and excellent side hustle for Ogundeko’s 24 points and 12 rebounds. In Trinity’s win over Williams last Sunday, Turnbull and Arthur cooled off a bit, but were still able to combine for 24 points. Ogundeko did the rest, dominating the game to the tune of 15 points and 23 rebounds. Ogundeko may well be able to carry his team to the tournament, but if Arthur and Turnbull can really get going, it may be the NCAA tournament as well as the NESCAC.
Connecticut College had their carriage turn back into a pumpkin over the course of the weekend. After a tough loss to Hamilton in a battle of the Cinderellas, they had to make the long drive to Vermont only to fall to Middlebury 97-89. (Sidenote, Battle of the Cinderellas might be a great movie idea. Every Cinderella ever comes together and fights each other for the title. My money is Brandi.) Zuri Pavlin ‘17, the Camels’ leading rebounder and scorer, battled a mysterious injury throughout the weekend, but even with him Connecticut may simply not have enough weapons to match up in the league this year. Fortunately for them, Trinity often struggles offensively as well. This game has the potential to keep Conn College’s tournament hopes alive, but I don’t see Ed Ogundeko letting that happen.
Writer’s Pick: Trinity
Williams (11-3, 0-2) @ Colby (7-6, 0-2)
7:00 PM, Waterville, Maine
Much like Wesleyan, Williams is drifting dangerously close to the edge of “must-win” territory They drew a tough opening draw in facing then #3 Amherst to lead off league play, and dropped that game 80-72. They then dropped their second game to Trinity 65-63, an ugly offensive performance from a team that has prided itself on offensive efficiency over the last few years. Williams needs more from everybody, but Kyle Scadlock ‘19 had a particularly disappointing weekend. Amherst and Trinity were able to load up on star forward Daniel Aronowitz ‘17, leading to big games from Cole Teal (26 against Amherst) and Bobby Casey (21 against Trinity.) However, those two key players can’t seem to get hot at the same time, and Scadlock hasn’t been nearly aggressive enough to help Aronowitz make up for it. He only took 11 shots over the whole weekend, less than many NESCAC students do at one pregame. If Williams has any hope of climbing out of this whole, they will need him to live up to his potential and be a viable second scoring option behind Aronowitz.
Colby faces a similar situation to Williams in that simply no one on their team is shooting well enough. After a hot start to the season, Patrick Stewart ‘17 has been mired in a slump that is mirrored by his teammates. Over the weekend they shot under 38% from the field in both games, and under 30% from three. Unless the Mules get magically hot, it’s hard to imagine them pulling off the upset against the Ephs, who should be hungry to send a message to the league that they are still alive.