Congratu-EPHING-Lations: Women’s Soccer NESCAC Finals Recap

Sunday afternoon’s Williams versus Tufts game was one for the ages. The favored Williams College Ephs came into the game against Tufts with pure confidence after a 3-0 trouncing of the Jumbos in October. The game, however, did not start out in the Ephs’ favor. The key to the game for Williams was to establish an early lead, and rely on their stellar defense that carried them all year.

Nature, on the other hand, had a different idea. High winds blew both teams off their game, but it seems like the conditions affected Williams more. Coaches will always tell their players when they’re making excuses about the weather that both teams are playing in the same conditions. The team that best adapts to the unfortunate conditions is normally the one that capitalizes. Tufts was that team. At the very beginning of the second half, it was the Jumbos who tallied the first goal. Alessandra Sadler’s ‘18 goal put Tufts in the driver’s seat early in the second half. The minutes that followed stunned me: the Ephs looked like a deer caught in the headlights. They’re so used to playing with a lead that the 1-0 deficit made them reminisce about the collapse against Trinity last year in the playoffs.

Nevertheless, in any time of distress, you will turn to people whom you depend on. Natasha Albaneze ‘18 took control of the game, and kept the ball from the Eph’s defensive side of the field. This action allowed the Ephs to put the peddle to the metal, and register many shots on goal on the Jumbo keeper Emily Bowers ‘19. One of the fundamental principles of soccer is that shots on goal is one of the most important aspects of the game. In football, a team that goes 0-2 in the redzone is deemed a team that can’t execute in the clutch. In soccer, the shots on goal wear down a keeper and a defense–even if they don’t initially go in. It didn’t seem early on that the shots were wearing down Bowers at all. Finally, Natalie Turner-Wyatt ‘19 evened the game near the end of the second half off a Bowers’ rebound. Again, this goal was a product of shots on net. Bowers’ rebound control was stellar all game, but there’re some shots that a keeper has to make a desperation save on. Turner-Wyatt controlled the rebound, and potted a goal to tie the game up.

Natasha Albaneze ’18 controlled the game from midfield and allowed the Ephs to finally break through.

With only nine minutes left in regulation time, the Jumbos were on their heels. Out of the nine minutes left, at least seventy-five percent of them were in the Jumbos’ defensive side of the field. Of that seventy-five percent, there was a good minute that the ball danced around the goal line, only to be cleared by the defenders. Then, this one sequence of events was one of the greatest sports moments I’ve seen in my life. This moment goes up with Jordan’s crossover game winner against Utah, Julian Edelman’s catch against Atlanta in the Super Bowl, and Jeter’s flip to nail Giambi at the plate in the 2001 ALDS in Oakland.

Tufts keeper Emily Bowers ’19 played an unbelievable game, keeping the vaunted Ephs offense at bay as long as she could.

The ball was being played in the box by the Ephs, and the Jumbo defenders seemed like they couldn’t clear it. Bowers made a save on an Eph shot, but gave up a juicy rebound. Bowers and the majority of the Jumbo defenders were cut off the left of my computer screen, while the ball trickled to a Albaneze with a wide open cage. She planted her left foot, swung her hips, and the inside of her right foot crushed the soccer ball and the Ephs into what seemed like a NESCAC championship and an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. Like Sinon climbing out of the Trojan horse, Bowers  magically reappeared on my computer screen to make the save of the year with her outstretched left arm. Regulation came to a close, and overtime started with Williams still holding the momentum. Alison Lu ‘20 received a pass from Albaneze only four minutes into the overtime period and calmly chipped in a goal past Bowers to crown the Ephs NESCAC champions. An anticlimactic ending to a fantastic game.

I would personally like to thank all the women playing soccer in the NESCAC this year. Without them, there would be no game. They’ve proved that any team can win on any given day. Congratulations to the Ephs (ugh from a Wesleyan perspective). They truly deserve the title as league champions. Good luck Williams in the DIII tournament, and to any other NESCAC team that gets a bid! Again, thank you for such an incredible season, and I can’t wait for the 2018 campaign.

Time to Punch Some Tickets: Men’s Soccer Semifinal Preview

Tufts (13-1-2, 7-1-2) vs. Hamilton (4-5-1, 8-6-2), 11:00 AM, Medford, MA

Tufts has absolutely steamrolled through the NESCAC this season, and with a merciless 3-0 victory over Bates last week, the Jumbos showed no signs of nerves when it comes to playing championship soccer. Superb play from last Saturday’s goal scorers Conor Coleman ’18, Dexter Eichorst ’18, and Sterling Weatherbie ’19 proved that their defensive players can get it done all over the pitch. Tufts’ defense is as talented a group of players as you’ll see on a NESCAC field together. Responsible for all three goals last weekend, and having still conceded only one goal this season, it’s hard to draw up a feasible scenario in which their squad could actually lose, not just this game, but any game.

Gavin Tasker ’20 is just one of many scoring threats on the Tufts roster.

HOWEVER, do not sleep on the Hamilton College Continentals. Hamilton lost narrowly to Tufts 1-0 during the regular season, and is coming off their best game in recent memory. After falling behind 2-0 last week to the defending champion Amherst Mammoths, the Continentals came storming back with 4 unanswered goals in the second half. Aidan Wood ’20 led the charge with a second half hat trick, truly the stuff of legends, and if he’s in top form again this weekend, Hamilton could pull off the unthinkable. Yes, everyone loves a Cinderella, but even a Hamilton squad in top form may not be enough to put an end to Tufts’ incomprehensible season.

Prediction: Tufts 3- Hamilton 2 (Penalties)

Bowdoin (10-3-3, 6-2-2) vs. Middlebury (11-5-0, 5-5-0), 1:30 PM, Medford, MA

Middlebury (11-5), a team that does not believe in ties, is coming off a huge overtime win against perennial powerhouse Connecticut College. Everybody loves a game that ends in dramatic fashion, and that’s exactly what Brandon Reid ’21 provided us with last week, when he connected on a pass from a man familiar with the score sheet himself, Drew Goulart ’20 in the 95th minute of play. Not to be outdone, Bowdoin (10-3-3) pulled out a win in penalties last week, as Stevie Van Siclen ’18 showed he just may be the best keeper on the planet, saving multiple penalties in the shootout.

Moctar Niang ’19 killed Middlebury in the regular season, and will be looking to do the same in the playoffs.

When the Panthers and the Polar Bears met earlier this season, Moctar Niang ’19 slotted a pair of goals for the Bears, en route to a 3-1 victory. Bowdoin won’t have it as easy in this match though, as they face a Middlebury squad that’s won 6 of its last 8 matches. It’s worth noting that every single one of these victories has been a 1-0 result, meaning that if the Panthers can keep the Bears off the board early, they have what it takes to sweat out a low scoring affair. If Niang and company catch the Panthers on their heals though, they could run away with the one, just as they did in late September. One more thing, if you’re looking for an X-factor, Bowdoin’s Drake Byrd ’21 would be happy to oblige. The super-sub has found the score sheet just twice this year, both for 1-0 victories against conference opponents. Don’t be surprised if he’s got his footprints all over this one, too.

Prediction: Bowdoin 1- Middlebury 0 (OT)  

No Gimmees: Men’s Soccer Quarterfinals Preview

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.

Sebastian Derby
Sebastian Derby ’21

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.

Drew Goulart
Drew Goulart ’20

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