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Men's Sectional Previews: Northeast

Other Sectional Previews:  WEST | GREAT LAKES | EAST

By Henry Loughlin


Tufts (Medford, MA)

Sectional Webpage

Saturday/Sunday, Nov. 17-18

Third Round - Saturday

Amherst (14-4-1) at Tufts (14-0-3), 11:00 am ET

Montclair State (17-1-4) vs. Ramapo (17-3-2), 1:30 pm ET

Quarterfinals - Sunday

Sectional Final, 1:00 pm ET

How they reached the Sweet 16

   Berth 1st Round 2nd Round
Tufts Pool C at-large Bye W1-0 Stevens (H)
Amherst Pool C at-large W1-0 Bridgewater St. (H) W4-2 St. Joseph's (Me.) (H)
Ramapo Pool C at-large W2-0 Springfield (N) W1-0 Connecticut Col. (A)
Montclair State NJAC AQ T1-1 (2OT) Colby (H) T1-1 (2OT) NYU (H)

2018 Statistical Overview

   Record (Pct.) GSA : GAA (Diff.) Avg. OWP SoS vs. Top 25 Last Ten
Tufts 14-0-3 (.912) 1.91 : 0.51 (+1.40) .608 .601 1-0-1 7-0-3
Amherst 14-4-1 (.763) 2.18 : 0.83 (+1.35) .614 .603 1-1-1 8-1-1
Ramapo 17-3-2 (.818) 2.34 : 0.97 (+1.37) .594 .575 1-2-0 7-1-2
Montclair State 17-1-4 (.864) 3.71 : 0.87 (+2.84) .580 .568 0-1-0 7-0-3

Tufts Season Review

When Tufts came out of nowhere to win a national title in 2014, the Jumbos just barely snuck into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection. The next year, Josh Shapiro’s side went 9-4-3 during the regular season, and were made to sweat whether or not it’d get a second consecutive NCAA selection, which they ended up receiving en route to a run to the Sweet 16 before falling to Kenyon. 2016 saw Tufts win another national title and—though D-III soccer observers were a bit more aware of the Jumbos—it all came as a result of an at-large bid that was far from certain. Last year, the Jumbos were able to get the NESCAC AQ, before a defeat to Brandeis in the Elite 8 saw their season come to a seemingly premature close. And while Tufts was an at-large selection this year, it won’t be sneaking up on anyone.

Like they did last year, the Jumbos started incredibly well, winning nine in a row in September, including notable victories over longtime NESCAC rival Amherst and local foe Brandeis. Tufts dropped its first points on October 6 in a 1-1 draw at Middlebury, but that didn’t set the Jumbos back at all. They proceeded to down NEWMAC frontrunner Babson, register a tie at Connecticut College in a game that they statistically dominated, and register wins over Trinity (Conn.), Williams, and Bowdoin, the latter being the first victory over the Polar Bears—Tufts' supposed bogey team—since 2013. Tufts was unable to defend its NESCAC crown, as it was knocked out on penalty kicks in its NESCAC quarterfinal against Colby, but the two weeks off—which included a first round bye—appears to have given the Jumbos the recovery they needed. Empire 8 Champion and longtime power Stevens, despite playing 110 minutes the day before against Gordon, gave Tufts a good game in the second round, but the Jumbos’ persistence paid off, as Gavin Tasker’s goal with less than 10 minutes remaining saw the side to a 1-0 win. Tufts is deep, talented, athletic, and ruthlessly efficient: the Jumbos can play some nice possession-based combinations at times, but what they’re even better at is just plain getting results. There’s a good chance that the road to the national title will go through Tufts.

Amherst Season Review

For the past three years, the narrative has been the same: Amherst isn’t up to its usual standards. Perhaps it’s true that the Mammoths don’t possess the same eye-popping level of talent that saw Amherst make its run to the 2015 National Championship, but the team has managed to do pretty darn well during those three years of allegedly being “down.” Since that national title, the Mammoths have advanced to the Sweet 16 three times, including this year, winning yet another NESCAC crown in 2016 as well.

Much like last year, this year didn’t start as well as Amherst would have hoped for. September losses to conference foe Middlebury (falling to the Panthers for the second year in a row), rival Williams (its first defeat to the Ephs since that fateful 2013 Elite 8 game), and this year’s Sweet 16 opponent Tufts blotted its copybook, but the Mammoths managed to do what they do best: grind out victories when it matters most. Amherst bounced back from the Jumbos defeat to down Bates, having to rally out of a 1-0 deficit. The Mammoths then picked up two victories in a row over New England College and Hamilton before rallying from 1-0 down yet again before being forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at Connecticut College. Multi-goal shutout victories over Colby, Staten Island, and Wesleyan followed before the Mammoths easily saw off Brandeis on the road, 2-1. Wins over Trinity (regular season) and Bowdoin (in the NESCAC quarters) followed, before a surprise 3-1 home defeat in the NESCAC semifinals to eventual champion Colby stemmed the tide. Nevertheless, Amherst received hosting rights for a 1st and 2nd Round pod where it saw off MASCAC Champion Bridgewater State in the 1st Round, before putting four goals past a St. Joseph’s (Maine) side that had conceded just two all year up to that point. Amherst’s brand of soccer may be incredibly direct—a hybrid of gegenpressing and long-ball tactics—but it is also incredibly effective at getting its opponents out of their comfort zones and allowing the Mammoths to do what they seem to do best: win.

Ramapo Season Review

In the last five years, the NJAC has been dominated by names such as (this is not an exhaustive list) Montclair State, Rutgers-Camden, Rutgers-Newark, and Rowan. And while Montclair has dominated the NJAC this year, the real surprise in the conference is 40 minutes north of Montclair—in Mahwah—at Ramapo College.

The Roadrunners, whose sole winning season in the last five years was a 10-5-3 campaign in 2016, matched last year’s win total (of eight) in its first eight games this year. On September 26th, Rutgers-Newark came to town and spoiled the optimism with a 2-0 win, but Ramapo rebounded with wins over Stockton (2-0) and CCNY (9-1). Montclair handed the Roadrunners their first road defeat of the year (2-0), and, following a 5-0 win over Berkeley (NJ), Ramapo was forced to settle for two home ties against Rutgers-Camden and Western Connecticut. However, any suggestion that Ramapo was about to capitulate would prove to be mistaken, as the Roadrunners rattled off wins over Kean, Rowan, and William Paterson (twice, including a NJAC semifinal win). A 5-0 loss at Montclair in the NJAC Final set the Roadrunners back, but they received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. After dismissing Springfield, 2-0, in the first round, the Roadrunners saw off host Connecticut. College in the second round, 1-0, as the nation's leading scorer Joseph Fala's 10th minute goal stood up—thanks to several defensive interventions, including a penalty kick save from goalkeeper Joshua Schaeffer—for the biggest win in Ramapo program history, setting up a date with a Montclair State team it knows all too well.

In the reverse of Looney Toons, Montclair’s Wile E. Coyote has gotten the better of Ramapo's Road Runners twice this year. However, the adage about it being very difficult to beat a good team three times in one season still rings true, and with this game being at a neutral venue rather than Montclair's comforts of home, Ramapo will be confident that it can make the third time be the charm.

Montclair State Season Review

Since its last Sectional appearance in 2013, Montclair State has usually been in and around the level of a Sweet 16 team but hadn’t quite been able to get back. In 2014, the NJAC Champion Red Hawks were bounced in the First Round by Stevens, 3-0. In 2015, highly-touted Montclair was knocked out by then-defending national champion Tufts at home, as it let a 2-1 lead slip en route to a 3-2 loss. 2016 saw the team reclaim the NJAC Championship, before Christopher Newport unceremoniously dumped them out of NCAAs by an emphatic 5-1 scoreline. Last year, the Red Hawks fell to Rutgers-Newark in the NJAC semifinals, a premature end to Montclair’s season.

This year is different. A 1-1 draw at traditional powerhouse SUNY Oneonta on the opening day of the season set the tone. Montclair then rattled off three straight wins, before a 5-1 home loss to reigning national champion Messiah stalled momentum. Even the defeat to the Falcons could be labeled one of those "closer-than-the-final-score-indicated" games, as it was a 1-0 game at halftime. Regardless, the loss didn't have too much of an impact on the Red Hawks, as they won 10 in a row, including defeats of NJAC rivals Rutgers-Camden, Rowan, Rutgers-Newark, and—this weekend's opponents—Ramapo. A 4-3 NJAC semifinal win over Rowan was a bit too close for comfort, as Montclair let a three-goal advantage slip in the last 11 minutes, but still managed to hold on for the win. The Red Hawks met Ramapo again, this time in the NJAC final, where Montclair was involved in yet another closer-than-the-final-score-indicated game despite the 5-0 result. Regardless, Montclair got its NJAC title back, its third in five years. Hosting yet another NESCAC team—this time, Colby—in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament may have given the Red Hawks some bad flashbacks of Tufts 2015 when the visiting Mules took a 1-0 first-half lead, but Montclair wouldn’t be denied, as Chaz Burnett got an 85th minute equalizer (his 14th of the season) and goalkeeper Mike Saalfrank was the penalty shootout hero. In the next round, against NYU, the roles were reversed, as Montclair’s 15th minute goal was cancelled out by a late NYU equalizer, but again Saalfrank saw his team through to its first Sweet 16 in five years. (Fun Fact: All three games in this year’s Montclair regional were 1-1 ties decided on penalties.)

Despite its resounding victories over Ramapo this season, Montclair will know the aforementioned adage about the difficulty of beating a good team three times in one year. And with ample PK shooting intel to be gained from Montclair’s two shootouts, the Roadrunners will be the happier of the two teams if this match goes to penalties.

Head Coaches


Josh Shapiro, 9th year (2010-2018), 102-35-26 (.706)
NCAA's (6 of 9 yrs.): 16-3-2 (.810) | 5th Sweet 16 | Champion ('14,'16), Elite 8 ('17), Sweet 16 ('15)


Justin Serpone, 12th year (2007-2018), 181-26-30 (.827)
NCAA's (12 of 12 yrs.): 23-6-6 (.743) | 11th Sweet 16 | Champ. ('15), Final Four ('08), Elite 8 ('12,'13)


DJ Pinton, 15th year (2004-2018), 149-102-30 (.584)
NCAA's (1 of 15 yrs.): 2-0-0 (1.000) | 1st Sweet 16 | --

Montclair State

Todd Tumelty, 8th year (2011-2018), 137-33-14 (.783)
NCAA's (7 of 8 yrs.): 9-6-5 (.575) | 4th Sweet 16 | Semifnal ('11), Elite 8 ('12,'13)

Seniors' 4-year Record (through Nov. 11)

   Overall (Pct.) NCAA Appearances Record Advancement
Tufts 55-12-12 (.772) '15 '16 '17 '18 10-2-2 Sweet 16: '15, '18; Elite 8: '17;
Champion: '16
Amherst 61-10-8 (.823) '15 '16 '17 '18 8-1-3 Sweet 16: '16, '17, '18; Champion: '15
Ramapo 43-27-8 (.603)       '18 2-0-0 Sweet 16: '18
Montclair State 65-17-7 (.770) '15 '16   '18 1-2-2 Sweet 16: '18

Players to Watch

Tufts: #5 F Joe Braun (Jr.) – 8g, 5a, 4gwg (NESCAC 1st Team) | #2 M Gavin Tasker (Jr.) – 5g, 2a, 2gwg (NESCAC 1st Team) | #10 M Brett Rojas (Jr.) – 1g, 7a (NESCAC 2nd Team) |#19 D Sterling Weatherbie (Sr.) – 4g, 1a, 2gwg (NESCAC 1st Team) | #16 D Biagio Paoletta (So.) – 1a (NESCAC 2nd Team)

Amherst: #9 F German Giammettei (Fr.) – 7g, 3a, 2gwg (NESCAC RoY) | #6 F Fikayo Ajayi (Sr.) 5g, 7a, 2gwg (NESCAC 2nd Team) |#10 F Cutler Coleman (Jr.) – 2g, 2a, 1gwg (NESCAC 1st Team) | #4 M Luke Nguyen (Sr.) – 5g, 3a, 3gwg (NESCAC 1st Team)

Ramapo: #3 F Joseph Fala (Jr.) 27g, 7a, 11gwg (NJAC OffPOY) | #10 M Trevor Albrecht (Sr.) 3g, 11a (NJAC 1st Team) | #2 D Justin Charkowski (Jr.) 3a (NJAC 1st Team) | #8 D Malik Lopes (Sr.) 1g, 1gwg (NJAC 2nd Team)

Montclair State: #10 F Rafael Terci (Sr.) 12g, 9a, 2gwg (NJAC 1st Team) |#17 F Jose Huerta (Jr.) 13g, 4a, 6gwg (NJAC 1st Team) | #6 M Michael Knapp (Fr.) 5a (NJAC RoY) | #4 D Damian Kolodziel (Jr.) 2g, 1a, 1gwg (NJAC 1st Team)

Why they will advance to the Final Four

Tufts: Plain and simple, Tufts knows how to get results, particularly in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve already downed Amherst once this year, and the Jumbos—with that mental advantage—put the Mammoths to the sword once again, as Tufts holds off Amherst’s ever-reliance on high balls and flip throws while getting a goal in transition. After staving off their conference rivals, Tufts also has its hands full in the Elite 8 with Montclair State, who saw off NJAC rival Ramapo in PKs. Despite MSU’s quest for revenge for the 2015 second round defeat, lightning strikes twice, as Tufts’ offense springs to life in yet another 3-2 victory, putting the Jumbos back in the Final Four where they have never lost a game. With that particular statistic in mind, Tufts’ triumph means that the Jumbos have one hand on the trophy.

Amherst: It may not always be pretty, but Amherst’s style of play sure is effective. The Mammoths, who fell at Tufts during the regular season, make their second trip to Medford a good one with a gutty 1-0 win in overtime, as Tufts’ form in front of goal takes a turn for the worse. Having seen off one of the favorites for the big prize, Amherst is ready for Montclair State, and, despite being pushed all the way, ekes out a 3-1 win, with German Giammattei getting a late insurance goal on the counter with the opposition throwing numbers forward in search of an equalizer

Ramapo: The Roadrunners are playing their best soccer of the year right now. Facing a Montclair team in a neutral venue, Ramapo wins the midfield battle—something it failed to do in the first two meetings this year—and Fala provides the scoring punch for the 1-0 victory. Against Amherst, who upset Tufts in a shootout, the Roadrunners ride their luck and—after relinquishing the lead late in regulation—Fala lands the killer blow, this time for a 2-1 double overtime win and Ramapo’s first-ever Final Four appearance.

Montclair State: The Red Hawks have proved their superiority over the Roadrunners twice this year by a combined 7-0 score line. This game will be much closer, but Montclair takes advantage of one opportunity late in the second half. After dispatching its nemesis, Montclair is emboldened to take on a Tufts team that scraped by Amherst the day before. In the Elite 8, it gets revenge for Tufts’ spoiling of its 2015 party, winning in yet another penalty shootout.


Other Sectional Previews:  WEST | GREAT LAKES | EAST

Comments or feedback for the author?  E-mail Henry Loughlin.

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