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.
Score Prediction: Bates 0 – Tufts 3