Nor'easter News - Week 1
Welcome to another year of Nor’easter News! Last year provided a number of exciting games, memorable moments, and twists and turns befitting of Division III soccer in one of the most competitive regions in the country. I would imagine that this year will include more of the same.
At the time of this writing, there were still a number of schools yet to begin their campaigns — most of the NESCAC action gets underway on Tuesday — but the opening weekend still provided spectators with a number of solid contests. Below, we look at three teams and the starts to their seasons.
Saint Joseph’s (Maine) Monks stay unbeaten since 2016!
2017 was the year that St. Joseph’s (Maine) (2-0-0) announced its arrival as a New England power. The GNAC Champion Monks went 19-0-2, setting an NCAA shutout record of 1,706 minutes without a goal conceded, downed NCAA participant Bowdoin in a 1-0 game, and held NESCAC Champion Tufts to a 0-0 draw in the 2nd Round before falling on PKs.
This weekend, the Monks traveled down to Massachusetts and picked up a pair of road wins on the North Shore. Friday night, the Monks downed host Gordon, 3-0, with a pair of second-half strikes proving the difference after going into the half up 1-0. Sunday, SJC found itself deadlocked late with 2017 CCC Champion Endicott, before junior Ryan Buonaiuto struck in the 87th minute to give the Monks an invaluable 1-0 win. At the start of last year’s season, despite advancing to the 2016 NCAA 2nd Round game, St. Joseph’s was still somewhat of an unknown commodity within the New England soccer community. One year later, however, the Monks’ going toe-to-toe with Tufts and defeat of Bowdoin means that they are well and truly on everyone’s radar this season as one of the top teams in New England, finishing last year in the Top 25 of both the D3soccer.com (19th) and United Soccer Coaches (25th) national rankings. And, after passing its opening weekend tests with aplomb, it would appear that this is a team ready to take the next step.
Brandeis Judges start - new year, same as last year.
For the second straight year, 2016 and 2017 Final 4 participant Brandeis began its opening weekend by splitting two games for a 1-1-0 record. On Friday night, the Judges met Endicott. While the host Gulls had the better of the opportunities early on, visiting Brandeis struck twice in a 10-minute period during the second half en route to a 2-0 win. Sunday, however, the Judges were upset by Gordon. In that game, Brandeis went 1-0 down early but equalized midway through the first half before conceding twice in 48 seconds to go 3-1 down. And, while the Judges pulled one back before halftime and pressured extensively after the interval, they were unable to find a second equalizer.
As previously mentioned, Brandeis lost on its opening weekend last year — in their first game, no less — so it’s not the end of the world for the Judges. Rest assured, with a difficult slate of UAA games still to come, as well as two very difficult non-conference games against a pair of recent national champions in Amherst, who the Judges vanquished on PKs in the 2014 and 2016 Sweet 16 games, and Tufts, who the Judges defeated in double-overtime in last year’s Elite 8 match, Brandeis will know it cannot afford to drop too many games in the early going. They will have the opportunity to right the ship with a pair of non-conference games this week, at home to 2017 NCAA team Springfield and against rival Babson on the road.
Babson Beavers weekend - half empty or half full?
Speaking of Babson (0-0-2), the Beavers are looking to bounce back from a 9-9-0 season in which it missed the NEWMAC tournament for the first time ever. The squad traveled to Pennsylvania to face a pair of difficult opponents on the road. Friday against Dickinson, Babson took a 1-0 lead in the 6th minute, with freshmen Mitchell Collins and Liam Hanlon combining for the opener. Though Babson held that lead into the second half, it was forced to settle for a 1-1 draw after Dickinson equalized in the 68th minute.
Saturday, the Beavers traveled a short distance to face Elizabethtown, where they were held to another draw by the Blue Jays, this time 0-0. Babson returns a fair amount of talent this year and seems to have brought in a strong first-year class, so the Beavers have to be considered among the favorites for the NEWMAC, which seems to be wide open this year. Last year, Babson started 2-0-0 with two home wins over St. Lawrence and Clarkson, before a pair of road defeats to Tufts and Brandeis stemmed the tide and set the tone for the rest of its season. This year, it will again face Brandeis, this time at home, and a win over the Judges would perhaps give the 0-0-2 Beavers the impetus to kick-start their season.
It’s still very early in the season, so there’s plenty that could change between now and November. Even so, it’s reasonable to assume that we’ll get a better idea of what teams in the region are made of, particularly once the NESCAC gets underway.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Henry Loughlin