Nor'easter News - Week 4
Recap of the Week
For the first time since 2012, Williams and Amherst couldn't be separated through 110 minutes of action, as the two sides battled to a 1-1 draw on Saturday afternoon at Cole Field in Williamstown. In Eastern Massachusetts, host Tufts got the victory over Brandeis in the New England Division III men's soccer edition of "Friday Night Lights." Elsewhere, Endicott bolstered its credentials with two away wins over Trinity (CT) and Roger Williams, rival Gordon edged Wentworth on the road by a score of 2-1, and the battle for the NEWMAC regular-season title appears to be between Springfield and WPI at the moment.
Though the rivalry fixture between Amherst and Williams ended in a 1-1 draw, both teams competed well on Saturday afternoon. Amherst started the brighter of the two sides, as the visiting Mammoths had the ball in their opponent's end for most of the opening stages. However, it would be the host Ephs who took the lead on the quarter-hour mark, as Malcolm Singleton scored following a scrum to give Williams a 1-0 lead. Amherst didn't quit and netted an equalizer when Cutler Coleman finished off a corner kick. Both teams had good opportunities to win it down the stretch - Amherst's Weller Hlinomaz and Aziz Kahn both rattled the post, while Williams' Eric Hirsch sent an effort wide with time expiring in the second overtime - but ultimately the two sides couldn't be separated and were forced to share the spoils. And, while Williams coach Erin Sullivan said he was disappointed to let the lead slip at home, this could well be a pivotal result for the Ephs come tournament time.
Friday night, in a battle of two 2016 Final Four teams, host Tufts edged Brandeis, 1-0, at Bello Field. The visiting Judges made a strong start, outshooting the hosts in the first half 8-4, but the teams went into the half in a scoreless deadlock. Early in the second half, Tufts capitalized as Brett Rojas fired home for the crucial advantage. There were a few nervy moments for the Jumbos down the stretch, but Tufts held on for a victory in its biggest test of the year so far. The match was a good battle, and was an ideal litmus test for the two sides, both of whom have tough tests ahead: Tufts (5-0-1) - one of just two sides in Division III that hasn't conceded a goal thus far this year - faces a daunting three-game NESCAC road trip, visiting Wesleyan, Amherst, and Hamilton, while Brandeis (5-2) will go on the road as well, first to Wheaton (MA) and then to Ohio for its first UAA test of the year against Case Western.
After suffering an upset at home to Johnson and Wales on Sept. 13, Endicott rebounded nicely with two impressive victories on the road over a pair of solid New England sides. First, the Gulls traveled to Hartford, CT, to face Trinity (Conn). In that game, Endicott struck on either side of halftime before withstanding a late rally from the host Bantams to emerge victorious, 2-1, over its NESCAC hosts. The next match saw Endicott do battle with Roger Williams, a side that had started the season 5-1-1. While this would have been billed as being a competitive encounter between two CCC contenders, Endicott scored early and often on Saturday en route to a 4-0 thumping. The Gulls will face a difficult test at WPI - who is in a rich vein of form following successive away wins at Babson and MIT - on Tuesday, but coach Joe Calabrese will be confident his team will be able to compete with the upstart Engineers.
Speaking of WPI, the 6-2 Engineers have arguably been the surprise of the season in the NEWMAC thus far. Tuesday, the squad picked up a 2-0 victory at home over Framingham State, before traveling to MIT for a noontime kickoff on Saturday. The visitors wasted no time getting their offense going, as WPI jumped out to a first-half lead through Spencer Ralphs. Logan McLaughlin knotted things up just after halftime but WPI's Paul Beatty got his second game-winning-goal in three games a short time later, using his pace to get in behind the defense and finish. WPI will have its credentials examined when Endicott travels to town next week, but, based on recent evidence, the Engineers will be ready.
Elsewhere in the NEWMAC, Springfield appears to be the favorite. The Pride are a perfect 6-0 following a 1-0 home victory over Babson on Saturday afternoon, a start which is Springfield's best in Division III program history (the college moved from Division II in 1995). It was Springfield's first victory over Babson since 2003, a surprising statistic given that Springfield has been in contention for the NEWMAC title the past five or six years. The Pride face a difficult test against CCC side Wentworth on Tuesday afternoon, but -- at this point - it seems that the sky is the limit for Springfield.
Having thrown away a 3-0 lead in an eventful 5-5 draw with St. Lawrence on Sept. 2, Wheaton (Mass.) found itself down 3-0 in Saturday's game against Clark. And while it wasn't looking good for the Lyons, they managed to score with less than a minute left in the half. From there, Wheaton got another one back, and even managed to tie the game up through Amara Sesay's 85th minute penalty. The Lyons currently sit at 3-3-2, but -- having handed Roger Williams its first loss of the season three days earlier -- it could well be that Wheaton is starting to hit its stride.
While Tufts has been mentioned as being one of two sides that hasn't had its defense breached in 2017, it may surprise some to know that the other side sharing that accolade is also a New England team: St. Joseph's (Maine). The defending GNAC Champion Monks -- who advanced to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time last year -- have started the year 7-0-1, including an impressive 1-0 home victory over Bowdoin on Tuesday night, St. Joseph's first over Bowdoin in program history. Goalkeeper Blake Mullen, who stands at 6-foot-7, is the imposing leader of the Monks' backline, and will no doubt keep St. Joseph's in many games this year. The Monks might not get as much press as some teams in the region, but coach Adrian Dubois' side deserves credit for picking up where it left off last year. On this evidence, St. Joseph's has to be considered favorites to retain the GNAC crown and, should it do that and get back to the NCAA Tournament, definitely has the potential to spring an upset or two.
Upcoming Game of the Week: Amherst vs. Tufts
I was somewhat hesitant to choose a NESCAC battle for the third week in a row, as there are a number of compelling games within the New England region. This week, however, Amherst vs. Tufts is simply the best fixture on the calendar.
This is a fixture that has risen to prominence in the last five years, with the last three contests featuring one victory for each side, as well as a draw. Last year, host Tufts thumped Amherst, 3-0, for its first victory over its NESCAC rival since 2005. The year prior, Amherst won at home, 1-0, in double-overtime, while 2014's contest saw the two teams battle to a 1-1 draw on Tufts' Kraft field.
Games between these two teams have been competitive, chippy, and full of end-to-end action. This year's edition will be no different. In the teams' last encounter, 2015 Division III Champion Amherst was brought back down to Earth, suffering its first defeat of the season at the hands of the Jumbos. This year, Tufts has begun its title defense with an impressive 5-0-1 start, scoring nine and conceding none. With the shoe on the other foot this year, Amherst -- who has started 1-1-1 in NESCAC action thus far -- will be desperate to get a result to prove it still belongs in the conversation for the conference title.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Henry Loughlin