Nor'easter News - Week 9
Recap of the Week
Out with October; in with November. The final weekend of the 10th month featured the start of a number of conference tournaments in New England. In the NESCAC, three of the four “lower seeds” in the conference tournament upset higher-seeded opponents, epitomized by Colby gatecrashing Tufts’ home quarterfinal, while Hamilton and Williams downed Conn. College and Middlebury, respectively. Those three teams will travel to Amherst, the lone side in the top half of the eight team bracket to survive its quarterfinal test. The last two NEWMAC champions will do battle again in the post season this weekend, but it will be in the semifinals instead of the final. WPI, who won its first conference crown last year, will meet the team that it beat on penalty kicks in last year’s conference decider, Springfield. The last three times that the teams have met have been scoreless draws — but one would put that down to the team’s’ defensive strength rather than offensive difficulties. Either way, it’s very possible that this meeting will follow suit, and that penalty kicks will be necessary to determine who advances to Sunday’s final.
The parity of the NESCAC proved the theme of the weekend, as three of the four teams in the bottom half of the top eight ousted their higher-ranked opponents in the conference tournament quarterfinals. Most notably, Colby (7-6-3 / 3-5-2) prevailed on penalty kicks after a 0-0 tie with Tufts (13-0-3 / 8-0-2), with goalkeeper Dan Carlson coming up big to deny two of the Jumbos' penalty takers, while another missed wide. Amherst (12-3-1 / 6-3-1), meanwhile, repeated its 1-0 win over Bowdoin (9-5-2 / 5-3-2) with an identical result, this time at home. As the highest remaining seed, the Mammoths will host both the semi-finals and the final, the seventh time in the last eight years that the deciding matches in the NESCAC tournament will be played on Hitchcock Field. Another result that determined that fate was Hamilton's (9-6-1 / 4-5-1) 1-0 win over Conn. College (12-2-2 / 7-1-2). The Camels trampled through the first month of their season, before stumbling against Bowdoin for its first regular-season loss a couple of weeks ago. Conn. looks safe to net its second NCAA at-large bid in as many years, but the Camels know that they can’t afford to drop another game in quick succession if they have any hopes of making a deep tournament run. Williams (9-5-2 / 4-4-2) pulled off a big scalp, winning 1-0 at Middlebury (10-3-3 / 6-2-2) just four days after losing at home to the same opposition 2-0 in the regular season finale. The rain certainly played a factor, as Eric Hirsch finished off a misplay in the 57th minute to give the Ephs the victory and a date in the NESCAC semifinals against Hamilton.
Babson (11-2-4 / 5-0-2) has slowly emerged from the NEWMAC pack to establish itself as the favorite for the conference tournament. The Beavers may have wished to travel for the semifinals and final, however, as Babson’s last three times hosting the NEWMAC tournament have ended unsuccessfully with defeats in the final (2011) and semi-finals (2012 and 2016); Babson’s last two NEWMAC triumphs (2014 and 2015) have both come on the road. Regardless, at 11-2-4 and ranked 4th in New England in the latest Regional Rankings, Babson looks set to progress to the postseason.
The last two NEWMAC champions will do battle again in the post season this weekend, but it will be in the semifinals instead of the final. WPI (12-2-3 / 4-0-3), who won its first conference crown last year, will meet the team that it beat on penalty kicks in last year’s conference decider, Springfield (12-4-1 / 5-1-1). The last three times that the teams have met have been scoreless draws — but one would put that down to the team’s’ defensive strength rather than offensive difficulties. Either way, it’s very possible that this meeting will follow suit, and that penalty kicks will be necessary to determine who advances to Sunday’s final.
Elsewhere in the NEWMAC, Wheaton (Mass.) (9-9-1 / 3-4-0) sent MIT (8-6-3 / 2-3-2) packing in the #4 vs. #5 game, bouncing the visiting Engineers on penalty kicks, 0-0. Last year, MIT fell at Clark on kicks from the mark, and the margin of defeat was identical this time. The Lyons will travel to Babson on Saturday, where they will face the host Beavers. Wheaton’s last trip to face Babson in a NEWMAC tournament game ended with a 2-1 overtime triumph, so Bryan Waggoner’s team will be hoping that history will repeat itself.
The CCC has also shown its competitiveness, as the final will be played between the third seed, Gordon (11-6-1 / 5-2-1), and the five seed, Roger Williams (16-4-0 / 4-4-0). In one semifinal, the latter pulled the upset over top-seeded Endicott (10-6-2 / 6-0-2), 1-0, on a header with 50 seconds left in the first overtime. The Gulls controlled most of the early part of the game, before Roger Williams grew into the action after the halftime break, and made it count in the extra session to put James Greenslit’s team into the conference final for the first time since 2013. In the other semifinal, Salve Regina's (16-1-3 / 6-0-2) first loss of the season couldn't have come at a worse time, as the second-seeded Seahawks fell 4-2 to third-seeded Gordon. The Scots withstood the storm in the first half, before exploding for three second-half goals in six minutes, including two within 30 seconds. Salve didn't go quietly, though, as the Seahawks pulled two goals back in two-and-a-half minutes, making it a 3-2 game with just over 16 minutes left. Gordon put the contest to bed in the 80th minute, though, giving the Scots a 4-2 win.
St. Joseph’s (Maine) (19-0-0 / 11-0-0) has had a target on its back at the top of the GNAC for the better part of the last two years, but the Monks continue to handle the pressure with aplomb. Adrian Dubois’ team has given up just one goal all year heading into Saturday’s conference final against Johnson and Wales (RI) (12-5-3 / 8-2-1). Incidentally, JWU is the lone foe on St. Joseph’s list of opponents this year — which also includes teams like Bowdoin, Endicott, and Gordon — to have breached the Monks’ defense, so the Wildcats will not be coming to Standish to lie down for SJC. However, the Monks are good enough and experienced enough that one would imagine they’ll get the job done. Time will tell.
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