Nor'easter News - Week 1
Recap of the Week
While the new season is less than a week old as of this writing on Tuesday evening, there have already been a number of exciting Division III games, particularly here in New England. Babson vs. Eastern Connecticut was the game I was tuned into on the first day of action, and the game lived up to billing, with the Beavers grabbing a winner in the 88th minute.
As of this writing, it’s tough to have much of a read on the NESCAC sides, as only a few opened their campaigns today. Regardless, there is plenty of action to recap elsewhere in New England
I was impressed by Babson in its opening home victory over Eastern Connecticut. The Beavers looked offensively potent, defensively sound, and seemed to have a decent flow to their play. It seemed only natural to choose them as my favorite for the conference title that they’ve won the past two years, and it appears that head coach Jon Anderson’s peers thought similarly based on the results of the NEWMAC poll. However, I was surprised to see that Babson went 0-2 at home against a pair of NJAC teams in Rutgers-Newark and William Paterson, giving up five goals in the process while scoring just two. While boosted by a pair of transfers from Wheaton in midfielders Ethan Fromhein and Pat O’Rourke, the Beavers will need to tighten up defensively if they hope to repeat their NEWMAC success of last year. Regardless, Babson teams are always well-coached and organized, and I think that Anderson will have his team peaking in late October and November which, as we all know, is when it matters.
After winning the UAA crown and making it to the Sweet 16 last year, I was rather unsure regarding the prospects of Brandeis going into this season. The Judges lost All-American center back Conor Lanahan, whose presence in the heart of defense was a huge factor in the Judges’ success, as well as a pair of Second Team All-UAA players in midfielder Jake Picard and outside back Robbie Lynch. However, the Judges started the season well, downing visiting John Carroll 3-1 on Saturday before pulling off a big win over visiting Haverford, who made it to the Elite 8 last year, on Sunday, 1-0. Given that they started two new players defensively, I personally thought that the Judges might struggle at that end of the field. However, they held the Fords at bay, and managed to make a first-half goal from midfielder Brandon Miskin stand up. Brandeis has several tough contests before conference play starts, including a rivalry matchup at Babson this Saturday and an under-the-lights home clash with NESCAC power Tufts on Sept. 24, but the Judges should be competitive based on the evidence provided this past weekend.
Elsewhere in the NEWMAC, there are a number of teams that are looking to knock off the Beavers—one being Wheaton (Mass.). After losing its opening contest to up-and-coming Wentworth, the Lyons pulled off a pair of impressive home wins over William Paterson (3-0-0) and Rutgers-Newark (1-0-0). After limping to an 11-8 record last year, many thought Wheaton was likely to struggle this season after the aforementioned transfers of Fromhein and O’Rourke to Babson. Yet while it is still early days, it is rather telling that Wheaton defeated a pair of foes that Babson fell to. Of course, the score of those games is not necessarily indicative of what’s to come, but perhaps the Lyons will be more competitive than originally thought.
It will be interesting to see what MIT does this year. Fresh off a run to the Sweet 16 last year in Ken Bovell’s first season at the helm, the Engineers graduated a significant portion of talent, including D3soccer.com Offensive Player of the Year Sean Bingham, midfielder Austin Freel, and goalkeeper Jake Amereno. That said, MIT returns a solid cast in forward Kareem Itani, who had a breakout season last year, as well as sophomore midfielder Wesley Woo and senior defender Garrett Souza. In addition to its conference schedule, MIT will take on New England foes Amherst and Brandeis at home, which will likely provide good indications regarding the Engineers’ capabilities as a NEWMAC and potential NCAA contender. Given the significant graduation losses it’s endured, this might be a rebuilding year for the Engineers. However, if Saturday’s 1-0 win at Stevens is any indication, MIT may well pick up where it left off last year. Either way, last year showed us that Bovell sets up his side as tough to beat, and I believe they’ll win their fair share of games this season.
Defending CCC champion Gordon is 1-1-0 following its opening homestead, beating Husson 2-1 while falling to Carthage by the same score in 2OT. While the Fighting Scots return a solid cast from last year, they will ultimately turn to All-American midfielder Caleb Cole to lead them once again this year. Gordon pulled off a notable upset last year in beating Carnegie Mellon 2-1 in the 1st Round of the NCAA Tournament, and I think this could be the year that they could take that next step and make it to the Sweet 16. Other contenders for the conference title could include Endicott, who graduated significant offensive firepower but returns standout goalkeeper Nick Weinstein, and Wentworth, who quietly put together a notable 15-5-1 campaign last year and began the year with a 2-1 win at Wheaton.
Speaking of Endicott, the Gulls pulled off arguably the biggest win in program history with a 1-0 home victory over Tufts on Tuesday. As previously mentioned, Endicott graduated a lot of attacking talent, and lost in heartbreaking fashion to Gordon in the CCC final, but they couldn’t have started this new season any better. While the season is indeed young and Tufts played without standout striker Nathan Majumder, a win over the Jumbos will do wonders for the Gulls’ confidence, and Endicott could well contend this year for an NCAA bid based on Tuesday’s evidence.
Mass-Boston has started the year with three very solid road wins: 2-0 at Roger Williams, 3-0 at Wentworth, and 3-2 in 2OT at Thomas College. The Beacons went a solid 16-5-0 last year before losing to Scranton in the 1st Round of NCAAs. Boston lost leading scorer Pedro Dasilva and forward Elton Teixeira to graduation, but return 8 of 11 starters. And based on the evidence provided from this past week, they have to be considered the favorites for the LEC title once again.
Finally, we’ll have a look at the NESCAC. Amherst, the defending NCAA Division III Champion, lost a pair of All-Americans in goalkeeper Thomas Bull and forward Nico Pascual-Leone, as well as striker Greg Singer, but should be strong once again with forward Chris Martin leading the line. Middlebury, snubbed by the NCAA last year, will be a wounded animal this year. Though the Panthers lost All-American Deklan Robinson, they return a strong cast in goalkeeper Greg Sydor and forwards Greg Conrad and Adam Glaser, among many others, and should contend for an NCAA bid.
Never one to be discounted, Tufts, the 2014 National Champion and a Sweet 16 team in 2015, brings back a solid spine in goalkeeper Scott Greenwood, center backs Conor Coleman and Daniel Sullivan, midfielder Zach Halliday, and striker Nathan Majumder. I also think that Bowdoin will be back in the mix, as they won’t give up many goals with Stevie Van Siclen in net; Wesleyan brings back a good core headlined by forward Adam Cowie-Haskell, midfielder Pat Devlin will ensure that Connecticut is in every game; and I believe Bates has a solid cast that could surprise in some quarters this year. I’m sure that there are NESCAC teams that I’ve omitted here that will surprise this year, and I look forward to seeing who they are.
Upcoming Game of the Week: Bowdoin vs. Amherst
I struggled between this clash and Babson vs. Brandeis, which is a huge rivalry game, but I’m going to have to go with the Polar Bears vs. Lord Jeffs. Last year’s NCAA champion will play the two-time defending NESCAC champ on Saturday in Brunswick, ME. Both teams have a number of questions to answer after significant graduation losses: Amherst lost the aforementioned pair of All-Americans, while Bowdoin graduated the NESCAC Player of the Year in center back Nabil Odulate. And while I’d expect this one to be a low-scoring affair - one goal will probably win it - I certainly think that it will be a competitive, entertaining watch.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Henry Loughlin