Nor'easter News - Week 10
Recap of the Week
This past weekend was conference championship time in New England, and eventful it surely was. Colby made a run to the NESCAC title, vanquishing Amherst and then Williams in the conference semis and final, respectively, while registering its second PK triumph in three games (the first was the quarterfinal victory over Tufts). Making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1963, Colby will be joined by five of its conference rivals, so more than half of the NESCAC will be participating in the NCAA tournament. Elsewhere, still-perfect St. Joseph’s (Maine) saw off the only team it has conceded a goal to — Johnson and Wales (RI) — in the GNAC title game, while fellow Maine school Thomas will be returning to the NCAA tournament after a 1-0 NAC final win over SUNY Canton. And in other conference championship action, Bridgewater State captured its first MASCAC title since 2015, Gordon returned to the CCC pinnacle with a 1-0 OT win over Roger Williams, Springfield bounced top-seeded Babson in the NEWMAC title game, and Western Conn. won its second consecutive LEC title.
Amidst all kind of conference championship action this weekend, perhaps the biggest story was Colby’s improbable run to the NESCAC title. The Mules, who entered the conference tournament as the eighth seed, earned their place in the second week of action by defeating defending NESCAC Champion and top-seeded Tufts on penalty kicks in the quarterfinal. In the semifinals, the Mules were up against Amherst, which was hosting the last two rounds of the conference tournament. Instead of trying to play for penalties, Colby took the game to Amherst, and Jeff Rosenberg scored in the first 10 minutes to give the Mules a 1-0 lead. Just out of the gates in the second half, Rosenberg scored his second of the day, giving his team a 2-0 advantage, and a tally from Asa Berolzheimer exactly 11 minutes later put Colby in a commanding 3-0 lead. However, less than two minutes later, Amherst pulled one back. Anyone familiar with the Mammoths’ propensity for late comebacks knows that no game against Amherst should be considered over until the final whistle -- much less with 30 minutes to go -- but -- despite being outshot 27-7 -- Colby was able to hang on for the 3-1 win. In Sunday’s conference final, the Mules faced a Williams side making its first appearance in the NESCAC showpiece since 2013. Williams had the better of the chances, dominating both the shot count (21-10) and the number of corner kicks registered, but Colby hung tough, and reserve goalkeeper Matt Johnson came up big in the shootout, saving two penalty kicks to give Colby the upset and -- more notably -- its first NESCAC title in history.
For the third straight year, St. Joseph’s College emerged as GNAC Champions. Despite the Monks registering their 20th victory of the season, the triumph was far from easy. Johnson and Wales (RI), the one team to score upon the Monks this year, held strong through the first half, and it was only after the interval that the Monks’ Cody Elliott was able to break the deadlock. From there, SJC’s defense held firm. The Monks will play Middlebury, an at-large selection from the NESCAC, in the 1st Round. Should it get by the Panthers, SJC would have a chance to play either Amherst or Bridgewater State with the opportunity to advance to its first NCAA Sweet 16 in history.
We already talked about the NESCAC Championship, but it’s time to discuss the rest of the conference. After the conference won three consecutive national titles between 2014 and 2016, last year the NESCAC received five bids to the NCAA tournament — four at-large selections and the AQ. Subsequently, three of the at-large selections — Bowdoin, Conn. College, and Middlebury — were knocked out in the 1st Round, while (Pool C team) Amherst and (AQ winner) Tufts were eliminated at the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 stages, respectively, so some NESCAC fans may have felt it was an underwhelming year for the conference as far as NCAA performances go. This year, the NESCAC will have six teams in the tournament: Colby, the conference AQ, and Pool C selections Williams, Tufts, Conn. College, Amherst, and Middlebury. Will the NESCAC produce another year filled with earlier-than-desired exits, or will a NESCAC team make a run to the Final 4 or the title? Time will tell.
The MASCAC final between Bridgewater State and Framingham State was an entertaining spectacle. Framingham took a 2-0 first half lead, before the Bears rallied back to tie the game, 2-2. When the Rams took a 3-2 lead into halftime, it looked as if the MASCAC title may have been heading to Framingham, but — following a 54th-minute equalizer from Ibrahim Kyeyune — conference tournament MVP Kessy Alves put home his second and third goals of the game to give Bridgewater State a 5-3 victory and its first MASCAC title in three years. After earning the conference AQ, Bridgewater State will travel to Amherst to face the Mammoths in a 1st Round encounter.
Another conference champion earning its first title since 2015 was Thomas of the NAC. The Terriers have quietly put together a solid regular season, earning a 12-4-1 record, with its sole defeats being one-goal setbacks to NESCAC sides Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby, as well as Maine Maritime. In the NAC final against SUNY Canton, Josh Emard’s second half goal stood up, giving the Terriers the victory and a date with Conn. College in the tournament’s 1st Round. Thomas has known to play highly-touted opponents close — its last NCAA appearance was a 2-1 loss to Brandeis in 2015 where the Judges scored the winner in the final minute — and the Camels would be unwise to underestimate the Terriers.
Two conference finals went to overtime, and both needed just the first extra session to register winners. In the CCC, third-seeded Gordon saw off fourth-seeded Roger Williams, 1-0, through a 98th minute own goal, while the LEC saw Western Conn. rally from a 1-0 deficit against Keene State with less than 10 minutes remaining to tie the game before snagging the 2-1 win, also in the 98th minute. Both teams have their work cut out for them, as Gordon will travel to Tufts to face Stevens, while Western Conn. will face Franklin and Marshall in Pennsylvania.
The race for the NEWMAC regular season title was very much a back-and-forth affair, with Springfield, WPI, and Babson all around the top of the conference standings throughout the season. In the end, Babson won the regular-season battle, but it was the 2016 conference champion Pride who took the NEWMAC crown with a 1-0 win over the Beavers, with Christian Schneider scoring in the 88th minute against the run of play. The defeat proved to be doubly cruel for Babson, who -- despite putting together a solid campaign (12-3-4 / 5-0-2) and being ranked fourth in the third New England Regional Rankings -- missed out on an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Springfield, meanwhile, will travel to New London, CT to face Ramapo College in the 1st Round of NCAAs.
The regular season has concluded, so this is the last week of Nor’easter News. Thanks much for reading, and good luck to your teams moving forward.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Henry Loughlin