September 24, 2019

Nor'easter News - Week 4

By Henry Loughlin

Recap of the Week

October is almost here, and while there are still a number of teams jockeying for conference supremacy, we are far enough into the season to see who is clicking. To little surprise, Tufts’ red-hot start has continued, as the Jumbos exacted some revenge against Colby for the former’s elimination from last year’s NESCAC tournament, blowing out their opponents 4-0. Amherst and Conn. College, meanwhile, were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw in a chippy game that saw six yellow cards awarded, while local rivals Bowdoin and Bates battled to the same result on Wednesday night (and, incidentally, both featured 89th-minute equalizers by the home team). In the NEWMAC, Clark is rolling along at 6-1, while the top two pre-season favorites — Babson and WPI — were forced to settle for a 0-0 tie. And Western New England, the early frontrunners in the CCC, picked up a solid result, drawing 2-2 against Brandeis at home.

Impressions

In a battle of the two top NEWMAC teams, host Babson and visiting WPI were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw. Both teams had spells of play in their favor, but neither could make their chances count, and we go on another week without any further clarity about who the conference kings-in-waiting might be. At present, Clark leads the conference with a 6-1 overall record, the only defeat coming in double overtime against Brandeis, while MIT holds on to the only unbeaten record (3-0-3) which will be put to the test when WPI visits this weekend. Interestingly, the NEWMAC has not had a repeat champion since Babson won two crowns between 2014 and 2015, and while there’s still time for defending champion Springfield (2-5-1) to rebound, it certainly appears at present that the theme of unique champions is set to continue.

Amherst has gotten a lot of press so far this year, and deservedly so given that the Mammoths are 5-0-1, but Conn. College deserves a shout-out for its strong start to the season. The Camels, who went 5-0 to begin new coach Reuben Burk's tenure, outscored their opponents by a composite margin of 18-3. Saturday, they traveled to Amherst and took a first-half lead through first-year Augie Djerdjaj. And while the Camels surrendered a heartbreaking equalizer with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, the goal itself was an impressive combination play started and finished by Amherst striker German Giammattei. Even so, Conn. managed to hold on for a credible 1-1 draw. Not a bad feat, given the number of games over the years that the Mammoths have turned around from trailing to winning. And though Tufts and Amherst will likely remain favorites for the NESCAC crown in the eyes of many, it’s quite clear that there’s a third team that should be in that conversation.

Last year, Tufts finished 18-0-3 en route to its third national title in five years. Two of those draws — NESCAC stalemates on the road to Middlebury and Conn. College — would be largely forgotten; however, the third, a NESCAC quarterfinal at home against Colby was, if not damning to Tufts' title run, certainly bitter, as it resulted in a penalty shootout that cost Tufts the opportunity to win its second-consecutive conference title. In that match, Tufts missed a number of gilt-edged chances, and its profligacy enabled Colby to emerge victorious en route to its first conference title. There would be no such reprieve for the visiting Mules this time, though, as the hosts scored twice in each half en route to a comfortable 4-0 victory. Tufts goes to Bates on Saturday, the last visit from which the Jumbos had to grind out a 1-0 win in 2017. And even considering Bates’ 4-1-1 start to the season under second-year head coach Tyler Sheikh, it’s tough to see past Tufts in that one.

The annual rivalry clash between Bates and Bowdoin produced no winner, but it had plenty of drama — and two first-year goalscorers. Bowdoin struck first midway through the first half, as Julian Juantorena finished off a broken play from close range to give the Polar Bears a 1-0 lead. Bowdoin, which won on its last visit to Bates in 2017, looked to be closing out a big three points, but Bates’ Jacob Iwowo notched an 89th-minute equalizer. Bowdoin dominated the overtime periods, outshooting Bates 5-1, but, with time ticking down in the second overtime, Juantorena’s shot flew a yard wide of the top-right corner, putting an end to an intriguing contest.

The CCC just started conference play this past weekend, so, while there are genuine conference "records" now on the board, there is still not much evidence demonstrating where teams lie. Defending champion Gordon fell to Wentworth, 3-2, while Endicott was held to a 0-0 double-overtime tie against Salve Regina. Roger Williams, meanwhile, has won its last three, including two victories last weekend over University of New England and non-conference opponent Husson. Western New England (5-1-1) has rebounded well from its opening day defeat to Babson, winning five in a row before picking up a 2-2 draw with visiting Brandeis on Saturday. With little information garnered thus far, the next opportunity for a team to establish some separation comes on Friday night when Endicott hosts local rival Gordon. At this point, though, the CCC is still wide open.

Upcoming Game of the Week: Amherst vs. Williams

It's little surprise that Williams and Amherst are rivals on the pitch. As two of the top-ranked liberal arts colleges in the country, let alone New England, and with two top-tier athletic programs, they are locked in similar battles for supremacy across the academic and athletic spectrums.

Last year's preview of this game provided some historical context, but we'll focus more on the recent history here — 2012 seems like a good place to start. The two teams battled to a scoreless regular season draw, before Amherst downed their rivals in the NESCAC title game, again on Cole Field, before the teams were pitted against one another in a mouthwatering clash in the Elite 8. Host Amherst, who did not suffer a loss all season, dominated play, hitting the woodwork a total of five times. Despite being the underdog, though, Williams held on for the 0-0 draw, and then emerged victorious in the resulting penalty shootout, sending then-coach Mike Russo and his Ephs squad to an unprecedented Final Four. The following season, it appeared that Amherst would restore the assumed natural order, as coach Justin Serpone’s team won the regular season meeting on the road in overtime before downing Williams at home in the NESCAC final. And when the two teams surprisingly met — once again — in the Elite 8, most would have predicted that a six-loss Williams team would wilt this time. It did not, and left back Chris Conder’s left-footed free kick with 12 minutes left was all the scoring Williams would need to get back to another Final Four. 2014 saw Amherst exact a modicum of revenge with a 4-1 regular season win at home. The following year, Amherst — who would go on to win the program’s first national title in December — won a September game on the road, rallying from a second-half deficit before stealing victory in the final minute of the second overtime. In 2016, Amherst — who would once again win the NESCAC title — saw off Williams in a 4-2 win, while 2017 saw the teams settle for an uneventful 1-1 draw. Last year, the Ephs got their first win over Amherst in five years — and first regular season win since 2009 — as goalkeeper Aaron Schein saved a penalty kick in the 89th minute to preserve the 2-1 scoreline.

Amherst, who will host this weekend, has flown out of the traps this year, starting the season 5-0-1, while Williams has had a more indifferent start, so the Mammoths appear to be strong favorites. That being said, if this fixture has taught us anything, it’s that form goes out the window — making Saturday’s match all the more difficult to call.

 


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Nor'easter News

 

Nor'easter News provides coverage of Division III men's soccer throughout the New England region, home to the NESCAC, one of the nation's strongest and deepest conferences, as well as the NEWMAC, CCC, LEC and others. Each week the more significant results of the previous week are discussed, along with impressions and analysis, followed by the selection of a game to keep an eye on in the week ahead.

Columnist

Henry Loughlin

Henry Loughlin is a Brandeis University graduate (2014, Politics & American Studies) and has enjoyed watching Division III soccer for the past six years as a student and alumnus. Though a writer by trade, his interest in numbers and statistical analysis makes soccer writing and commentary a favorite pastime. [see full bio]

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