Nor'easter News - Week 2
Recap of the Week
The first full week of the season certainly provided some drama. In Maine, Amherst picked up a one-goal victory over a stingy Bowdoin side, while St. Joseph’s (Maine) relegated Bowdoin to its second home loss of the weekend a day later. The NESCAC, NEWMAC, and CCC look to be competitive again this year, as Amherst, Tufts, and WPI have all started the season unbeaten, while Williams’ margin of victory over Trinity (Conn.) potentially surprised. Endicott broke its three-game skid with a win at Plymouth State, 2-0, while Gordon failed to build on its season-opening momentum, ending up on the wrong end of the same scoreline at Eastern Connecticut State. Babson, meanwhile, notched a 2-0 victory over rival Brandeis, bucking a trend which had seen eight of the last nine grudge matches between the two teams decided by one goal.
St. Joseph’s (Maine) continues its impressive start to the season. After opening the campaign with a pair of shutout wins on the North Shore of Massachusetts against CCC powers Gordon and Endicott, the Monks are now 5-0, having scored 14 and conceded none. Their biggest result to date, however, came on Sunday against Bowdoin. After beating the NESCAC side and eventual NCAA Tournament participants at home last year, the Monks would have expected a Bowdoin side hungry for revenge in this matchup. In a feisty and competitive affair with several yellow cards issued between the teams, St. Joseph’s got it done once again, as a second-half goal from Brett Mattos off a free kick was enough to see off the hosts, who, a day earlier, suffered a home defeat to Amherst by the same scoreline. The Monks have yet to really start their conference play, so only time will tell if they’ll be able to keep their winning and shutout streaks going. Rest assured, this team should be favored to win the GNAC and -- after beating three top New England sides in the space of nine days -- be among the top teams in the region when all is said and done.
Another year, another 1-0 regular season victory for Amherst over Bowdoin. Saturday’s matchup between the two teams was the fifth straight non-playoff contest in which Amherst defeated Bowdoin by that scoreline. Three of those triumphs (including this year’s installment) have been on the road, two at home, but all have required stingy defense along with an opportunistic goal, as Luke Nguyen finished off a quick free kick to give the visitors a first-half lead. And while the Polar Bears responded admirably in the second half, they weren’t able to get back on level terms, as -- the one time they did put the ball in the net -- it was chalked off for offsides, as the clock ran out and yielded another seemingly routine result, improving Amherst to 2-0 after a 7-0 rout of Wentworth earlier in the week. This isn’t to say that Bowdoin hasn’t had its success against the Mammoths -- the Polar Bears did, after all, clinch their first NESCAC title in 2014 with a PK triumph at Amherst after a 0-0 draw -- but Amherst seems to have Bowdoin’s number, at least in the regular season. Should the two teams meet again in the playoffs, however, the Mammoths will be able to draw on this result for inspiration.
Some may consider Amherst to be the presumptive favorites in the NESCAC this year but defending conference champion Tufts will certainly have something to say about that. The Jumbos started their 2018 campaign on Tuesday night, at home against Mass-Boston. In that matchup, the hosts took an early lead, with Gavin Tasker finishing a cross from Zach Lane. The Jumbos added to their advantage before the break, as sophomore Mati Cano -- who missed his entire freshman year with injury -- made it a debut to remember, slaloming past the Beacons’ defense and into the penalty area before roofing the ball for a 2-0 lead. Midfielder Travis van Brewer rounded out the scoring with a second-half goal, giving Tufts the 3-0 win. Saturday, the Jumbos traveled to Colby, where they were held throughout regulation by the Mules. The Jumbos found a way to win, however, as sophomore Max Jacobs -- who has started both games at CF for Tufts this year -- made space for a shot shortly into overtime, giving his side the extra time victory. It doesn’t get much easier for Tufts, as -- after hosting Keene State and Bates this week -- the Jumbos will travel to Wheaton (MA) and Brandeis next week, but with four goals scored and none conceded, Josh Shapiro’s side is well and truly in the hunt for another NESCAC crown.
In the latest installment of a legendary local rivalry, Babson picked up a 2-0 home victory over longtime foe Brandeis for its first triumph of the year. The host Beavers came out the stronger of the two sides, outshooting the Judges 5-2 (2-0 SOG), although Brandeis did send a free kick just wide before the interval. After halftime, Babson grabbed two second-half goals through junior Alex Crompton and first-year Ross Shellow, putting the host Beavers in a commanding position. And while Brandeis would create opportunities on the counter, Babson was good value for the result. This is the first time since 2014 -- a 2-0 win for Brandeis on the road -- that this fixture has been decided by more than one goal. The Judges, now 2-2, have a tough test at WPI -- who has taken the Judges to overtime each of the last three meetings, on Tuesday. The Beavers, meanwhile, host Lesley on Tuesday, travel to WPI on Saturday, before heading up to Williamstown for their annual meeting with NESCAC foe Williams.
Speaking of Williams, the Ephs -- while not initially among the favorites for the NESCAC crown -- have started their season with a bang. Erin Sullivan’s team hosted conference foe Trinity (Conn.) on Saturday, and left no doubt, hammering the visitors 5-0. A pair of Bobby Fabricant goals 2:13 apart put the Ephs in a commanding position, before Williams added two more -- also two minutes apart -- from Chris Fleischer and Demian Glass, giving the home side a 4-0 halftime lead. Fleischer would add another before all was said and done. With five goals scored, Williams is more than ¼ of the way to matching its total offensive production of 2017 (19 goals). And if it can keep converting chances into goals as it did on Saturday, there’s little telling what this group’s ceiling could be.
Defending NEWMAC Champion WPI has started off its 2018 campaign in fine form, going 4-0. The Engineers, who triumphed over last year’s favorite Springfield in a PK shootout in the conference final, opened with a 1-0 win at Worcester State, before humbling visiting Mass-Dartmouth, 4-1. WPI then ground out an impressive 1-0 win at NESCAC side Wesleyan on Wednesday night, before romping Mass. Maritime, 5-0, on Saturday. The Engineers will run the gauntlet in the next 7 days, with upcoming home matches against Brandeis, Babson, and Endicott, before MIT -- who started 3-0 before losing to Framingham State on Saturday -- comes to town. Rest assured, this is a team that will be confident of getting results, regardless of opposition.
Things have been interesting over in the CCC, as defending champion Endicott went 0-3 in its first three home games. It’s worth noting, however, that those three matchups were against Brandeis, St. Joseph’s (Maine), and Trinity (Conn.), so those were always going to be tough matchups. The Gulls ended their three-game skid with a 2-0 win at Plymouth State, giving Joe Calabrese’s team its first victory of the campaign. Things don’t get much easier for Endicott, who visits NESCAC side Connecticut College, always-tough conference foe Western New England, and the WPI in the next 7 days, so this next week will give a more accurate indication of Endicott’s promise.
Looking to pounce on any Endicott misstep is local and conference rival Gordon, who started its year 1-1 at home, losing to St. Joseph’s before upsetting Brandeis. The Fighting Scots kept the good times rolling, winning 2-1 at Fitchburg State on Wednesday night, before they were brought back down to Earth in a 2-0 defeat at Western New England on Friday. Gordon hosts wounded animal Colby on Tuesday afternoon, which will no doubt be a tough test, so the Fighting Scots will have their own challenges to face, regardless of what their rival Gulls encounter. Rest assured, evidence suggests that this team will be in the hunt for the conference title come November.
Upcoming Game of the Week: Williams vs. Babson
Williams and Babson are two proud, storied programs that are looking to make the statement that they are ready to return to the upper echelon of New England competition. After three Final 4 appearances in five years, Williams -- who will host this matchup -- has competed well, but hasn’t reached the NESCAC semifinals or the NCAA tournament since 2013. Babson, a longtime NCAA contender, missed the tournament for the first time in four years last year, and hasn’t made it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 2011. There is optimism in both Williamstown and Wellesley, though, after Saturday, which saw Williams throttle Trinity and Babson pick up a victory over Brandeis, so both teams will come into this one fired up. Williams has won the last three in this fixture, but Babson’s last win came on the road in 2014. This one’s a tossup, and -- should a victor emerge -- could well indicate who is ready to return to their historic highs.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Henry Loughlin