Nor'easter News - Week 7
It might not be postseason time yet, but we’re getting to an exciting point in the season where parity is increasing at an exponential rate. With Eastern Connecticut’s defeat of Mass-Boston on Saturday, there are no remaining undefeated teams in the New England region. What’s more is that there are a number of exciting races going on from the NEWMAC, where previously 2-4-1 Babson has gone undefeated in its last eight to lead the conference, to the NESCAC, where it’s anyone’s guess who ends up top seed for the conference tournament. Elsewhere, the CCC and LEC received major shakeups of their established hierarchies, as Mass-Boston fell from the unbeaten ranks in its aforementioned defeat and Gordon was humbled by red-hot Wentworth. There is certainly a lot that could change in the next couple of weeks, but one thing is for certain: this should be an entertaining, unpredictable postseason for New England soccer fans.
Tufts kept the good times rolling with a pair of wins on the road, downing Connecticut College 1-0 and Trinity 2-0. Following an indifferent start of 3-3-1, the Jumbos are 4-0-1 in their last five, including a pair of major scalps against NESCAC foes Amherst and Middlebury. The Jumbos have two very difficult tests to come against Williams and Bowdoin, but with goalkeeper Scott Greenwood having an excellent season between the pipes and forward Gaston Becherano firing on all cylinders up front, along with a midfield that seems to be gelling at the right time, the Jumbos are ultimately in control of their own destiny. And while I will opine that this Tufts team isn’t perhaps as dynamic or skilled as the team that won the national title and is extremely unlikely to repeat its feat of 2014, I will say that, should the Jumbos get to the Big Dance, they shouldn’t be counted out.
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but Amherst grinded out yet another win at home on Saturday over Colby, 1-0. Midfielder Bryce Ciambella scored right before halftime, and the Jeffs held on for their fifth win in a row to improve to 11-1-1. Even having won the national title last year, there were serious questions asked about Amherst’s credentials as an NCAA contender this year—questions which were exacerbated by a thumping 3-0 defeat at Tufts, Amherst’s most lopsided loss in recent memory. However, Justin Serpone’s team has responded in fine fashion, and will take that momentum into its last two regular season games which pit it against Wesleyan on the road and against Trinity (CT) at home. Amherst might not be as dominant as last year’s squad—and it’s undeniable that the team lost a significant amount of talent from that team, however, what Amherst is incredibly good at is getting results, and, come tournament time, that’s all that matters.
Since losing 1-0 at Williams on Sept. 18th in a game where midfielder Noah Parker had his last-minute penalty saved, Babson has been on a roll, going 6-0-2 in its last eight. Having downed previously unbeaten Springfield on Saturday in overtime, the Beavers picked up another big victory over Endicott on Sunday, again by a 1-0 scoreline. All but one of Babson’s eight victories have come by a one-goal margin, perhaps suggesting that the Beavers are at their maximum potential. However, having watched Brandeis win 16 one-goal games last year, beating teams from Lasell and Mass. Maritime to Tufts and Chicago by 1-0 scorelines during that stretch, I have come to realize that it doesn’t matter how dominant a team is as long as it can get things done offensively. So far, Babson has proved its ability to execute on the latter front.
Speaking of Brandeis, Sunday saw the Judges pick up a big win at Washington U., 2-1. Brandeis has been plagued by defensive lapses this year, which proved evident during Friday’s 2-1 double overtime loss at Chicago, but they rallied admirably after giving up the first goal of the game in the 40th minute. At 6-4-3 it’s likely too little, too late in terms of Brandeis’ NCAA hopes, but wins this year over Haverford and Wash U. on their CV certainly don’t hurt.
Despite being outshot 23-8, Eastern Connecticut pulled off one of the upsets of the season thus far, downing Mass-Boston 2-1 on Saturday. The Warriors scored a pair of first half goals, taking a 2-0 lead into halftime, and while the Beacons made things interesting when they pulled one back in the 86th minute, the hosts held on for a seismic win. The two teams are still far apart in terms of overall records, as Mass-Boston is sitting at 12-1-1 while ECSU is 5-7-1, but such a win is likely to have a positive impact on morale and belief within the ECSU camp, a crucial pair of intangibles that could well help the Warriors make a run in the LEC tournament.
Watch out CCC teams: Wentworth is for real! Gordon was the latest team to realize this, as a day after losing at home to Rhode Island College for its first defeat in 10 games, Gordon again went 2-0 down against Wentworth. And though Gordon again got a goal which reduced the arrears to 2-1, Wentworth striker Noah Martins continued his stellar form, scoring a third to put the game away and give the Leopards a massive 3-1 win that propelled the 9-2-4 squad to the top of the CCC. Of course, Wentworth will know that the importance of regular season results ultimately pales in comparison to the postseason. That said, this could well be the year that Wentworth breaks through and wins the CCC title.
Upcoming Game of the Week: Tufts vs. Williams
This clash features two teams with similar records and styles of play. After losing a decent amount of talent, most of it in the midfield, Tufts dropped two of its opening three games. Since then, however, the Jumbos have gone 8-1-1, and appear to be coming into a run of good form. Williams, meanwhile, started the season extremely well, going 5-0-1 in its first six. And while two road defeats to archrival Amherst and Conn. College aren’t by any means catastrophic, they did bring the Ephs back to earth a bit, although the Ephs’ 7-2-3 record is by no means lackluster.
The match itself should be a spectacle as it pits two teams who possess skill, speed, and defensive solidity against one another. Tufts has won its last two matchups with Williams, picking up a 3-0 win in Williamstown last year following a 1-0 home decision the year before, but the Jumbos will know that Erin Sullivan’s offense, headlined by forward Mohammed Rashid, has ample threats and will not allow the Jumbos to possess the ball as readily as they’d like. This year, Tufts has played its home games on Bello Field, a turf surface where the Jumbos men’s and women’s lacrosse teams have played, and the move seems to have worked well as the turf allows Tufts to possess the ball on the ground and play quick passes. Such familiarity may well prove crucial to Tufts’ ability to make the game a high-tempo, fast-paced affair, and it will be up to Williams, who plays on the grass of Cole Field, to prove that they are equally adept on turf as they are on grass. Regardless of the playing surface, you can be sure that both teams will be up for this game—it is not to be missed.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Henry Loughlin