Nor'easter News - Week 5
Recap of the Week
As we enter October, we're really starting to see what teams are made of. Defending national champion Amherst fell from the unbeaten ranks, suffering a 3-0 loss at Tufts on Saturday. Forty miles west, in Worcester, Springfield recorded a dramatic, late victory over previously-undefeated Clark, handing the Cougars their first loss of the season. Also notably, Connecticut College made a statement with a 2-1 home win over a resurgent Williams squad. And while teams in the UAA—where the championship is decided based on conference record—are exceptions, regular season conference games pale in comparison to the importance of those in the conference tournament for most teams. However, they do provide an indicator of a given team’s progress and, perhaps more importantly for us spectators, can serve as an exciting preview ahead of November, when the real excitement starts.
In what had been billed as a highly-touted clash of NESCAC foes, Tufts (4-3-2) humbled Amherst (7-1-1) in a convincing victory Saturday, 3-0. Going into the match, the two teams had vastly different fortunes: Tufts had lost at home to Wesleyan on Tuesday, 1-0, while Amherst rallied for a controversial 2-1 victory at MIT a day later. This game, however, saw the Jumbos get things started midway through the first half through forward Gaston Becherano, before right back Matt Zinner doubled Tufts’ advantage a short time later. And while a second-half fightback from Amherst seemed imminent, it would instead be the Jumbos who would score the third—and final—goal of the game, as senior forward Nathan Majumder, who was making his first appearance of the season, bagged the coup de grâce to put the exclamation point on an emphatic win. In addition to the game being Amherst’s first defeat of the season, the match was also notable for a number of reasons: in addition to being Tufts’ first victory in this fixture since 2005, it was Amherst’s first three-goal loss since 2009, and only the second time in five years that the Jeffs conceded three goals in a match. And though the defeat could well light a fire under Justin Serpone’s squad in the same way that last year’s NESCAC quarterfinal defeat helped propel the Jeffs to the NCAA title, it also shows fellow conference foes what many had long suspected this season: Amherst is a talented team, but is also by no means unassailable.
Saturday’s highly-anticipated clash of surprise NEWMAC leaders Clark and Springfield certainly lived up to the hype. In a close game played in Worcester between the nation’s highest-scoring offense (Springfield) and fifth-best defense (Clark), Springfield fell behind early, rallied to take a 2-1 lead, saw Clark tie things up in the second half, and then got an 84th-minute winner from forward Luke Alvaro. The Pride improved to 9-0-1, while the Cougars slipped to their first defeat of the year, falling to 9-1-0. Clark has a slate of difficult tests coming up, including away tests at Babson, Brandeis, and Wheaton along with a home clash against MIT, so it will be interesting to see how the Cougars rebound from this setback. And while Springfield still has to travel to WPI, MIT, and Coast Guard and face Babson at home, the Pride will no doubt be boosted by this monumental victory.
Amidst all the press for its fellow conference foes like Amherst, Middlebury, and Williams, Connecticut College has quietly started the season 6-2-0. The Camels' only two blemishes have been hard-luck, 1-0 losses at home versus Middlebury and on the road against a resurgent Hamilton squad which finds itself leading the NESCAC. Most recently, though, Conn. picked up a seismic victory at home against Williams, 2-1. Conn. fell behind early to a goal from Ephs forward Malcolm singleton, before midfield stalwart Pat Devlin tied things up on the half-hour mark. With less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation, forward Chris Lockwood buried the game winner, giving Kenny Murphy's team an invaluable win. Conn. still has a number of difficult tests to pass, as it hosts Amherst, Salem State, and Tufts, while traveling to ECSU, Bates, Bowdoin, and Wesleyan, but with Devlin—who has 8 goals (5 in NESCAC play) and 3 assists—in inspired form, the sky is the limit for this team.
Another team that has quietly gone on a run is Gordon. The CCC-leading Scots have been perfect in their last 5, sitting at 7-1-1 as we enter the heart of conference play. However, Gordon’s toughest in-conference tests have yet to come, as October will see the team play conference rivals and current occupants of the #2 and #3 slots Wentworth and Endicott, the former of which is spearheaded by forward Nate Martins, who is the current conference leader in goals (10) and points (26). However, with midfielder Caleb Cole (6g, 7a) pulling the strings from the middle of the park, the Fighting Scots will definitely be ready for those games, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them wrap up the top seed in the conference tournament for the 2nd time in 4 years.
Wheaton (Mass.) earned its first win over Brandeis since 2010, defeating the Judges 5-4 on Tuesday. In what was a crazy game, the visiting Lyons took a 1-0 lead, saw Brandeis rally to a 4-1 advantage in the second half, and then equalized with 3 goals in 5 minutes to force overtime, where Wheaton won 5-4. Saturday, however, was a different story for the Lyons, as they slipped to a 2-1 home loss to Babson as the Beavers stole the game with 9 seconds left. Wheaton sits at 6-5-1 following the weekend, with a visit to Trinity (CT) scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. That test will certainly be tough, as Trinity is coming off an away win at Wesleyan, but if last Tuesday’s game is any indication, Wheaton’s high-powered offense could well pave the way for more success on the road.
For its part, Babson has a difficult slate of games coming up. After starting 2-4-1, the Beavers have gone 3-0-1 to improve to 5-4-2, the lone blemish of which was a 1-1 home tie with Bowdoin on Wednesday, while the last two Saturdays have seen Babson grab a pair of valuable NEWMAC road wins at MIT and Wheaton. First on the schedule, the Beavers host unbeaten Mass-Boston on Wednesday. While Babson picked up a 1-0 win in this fixture last year, sending the Beacons to their first defeat of the season, this year’s Mass-Boston team seems like it could be a different proposition. And ominously for the Beavers, three of Babson’s four losses have come at home, so Mass-Boston will be looking for revenge. Regardless, this should be an excellent test for both teams, and will be a captivating watch.
Upcoming Game of the Week: Middlebury vs. Tufts
Coming into the season, Middlebury was touted as one of the favorites for the NESCAC title. It's safe to say that the Panthers haven't disappointed thus far, going 5-0-2 and recording key 1-0 road victories over emerging powers Hamilton and Connecticut College. Conversely, the expectations of Tufts were more tempered, after the Jumbos—who won the 2014 NCAA title and reached last year's Sweet 16—lost a strong senior class. And that seemed par for the course, as Tufts started the year in insipid fashion, going 0-2-1 in its first 3 games. The Jumbos roared back to life, winning 3 straight against Bates, Plymouth State, and Brandeis, before falling 1-0 to Wesleyan at home last week, suggesting that the Jumbos still weren't out of the woods just yet. However, Tufts started the weekend in emphatic fashion with its momentous home victory over Amherst, before being held on their own turf the next day by Hamilton. Both teams have had highs and lows throughout the season, and even the last week, as Tufts went 1-1-1 during the stretch while Middlebury drew 0-0 on the road at Colby on Saturday. And while Middlebury has home-field advantage, it will know that coach Josh Shapiro and his Jumbos could provide the biggest test the Panthers have seen so far.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Henry Loughlin