September 9, 2019

Nor'easter News - Week 2

By Henry Loughlin

Recap of the Week

Fall has returned — and, with it, the start of another Division III soccer season. The New England region is generally strong, and this year should be no exception, with defending champion Tufts of the NESCAC once again leading the list of pre-season contenders. And while the Jumbos have lived up to billing thus far, there are a number of other sides in a variety of conferences ready to stake their claims among the region’s elite.

Impressions

Defending champion and prohibitive 2019 favorite Tufts shows no signs of slowing down this year. The Jumbos, who return a majority of their offensive production and midfield starters, got things rolling with a convincing home win over MASCAC runner-up Framingham State, defeating the Rams, 4-0, with four different players getting on the scoresheet. Next, Tufts traveled to Williams on Saturday to face their NESCAC rivals whom they had beaten five times on the spin. The Jumbos made it six on Saturday with a 3-2 win, overcoming a 2-1 halftime deficit — the first time Tufts had trailed at the interval in almost three years — with Travis van Brewer’s 25-yard rocket with 13 minutes remaining proving the odd goal in five. They’ll travel to New Hampshire for a Wednesday night non-conference clash at Keene State, before hosting local non-conference rival Brandeis on Saturday in one of the biggest fixtures of the season so far. Tufts’ defense might not be quite as stingy, but with center back Biagio Paoletta back for his second year as the team’s on-field general and Calvin Aroh sitting in front of him in defensive midfield, it’s safe to say that the Jumbos won’t concede many goals this year. Given their offensive production, that may be enough for Tufts to create more history and win another NCAA title (which would be its first in an odd-numbered year).

The latest iteration of Amherst-Bowdoin followed the script of most others in the last decade or so — and an Amherst win proved to be the end result once again. The Polar Bears are one of the few sides in the region that have gotten the better of the Mammoths during this decade, as they memorably downed the Jumbos in penalty shootouts in the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 and 2014 NESCAC Championship games, but, aside from that, Amherst has not lost to Bowdoin outright since 2008. Saturday, at Hitchcock Field, Amherst put away the visiting Polar Bears with first half goals from Ada Okorogheye and Gabe Gitler and a second half marker from German Giammattei, emerging 3-0 victors in the end. Amherst outshot Bowdoin 28-5 overall and 11-2 in terms of shots on goal. Both teams had started their campaigns with wins earlier in the week, with Amherst downing Nichols 2-0 at home and Bowdoin beating University of New England 3-0 on the road. And while Bowdoin will look to rebound from the loss of Moctar Niang, a D3soccer.com 2nd Team All-American, Amherst looks ready to challenge Tufts for a NESCAC crown.

Brandeis pulled out a big win over rival Babson on Saturday. The Judges, who had an underwhelming campaign last year, had started well this season, winning home and away to Roger Williams and Clark, respectively, but still had questions to answer regarding their ability to scrap for results against high-caliber opposition after failing to put away chances in a 1-0 loss to Washington and Lee. And despite conceding the opening goal in this grudge match to Babson center back Liam Hanlon, Brandeis dominated the game in possession and chances,and equalized around 10 minutes later through first year Will DeNight, who made it two in his first three collegiate games with a laser in off the bar. DeNight left the game through injury shortly thereafter, but the Judges kicked on and got the winning goal from Jake Warren just after half time. Brandeis’ early schedule doesn’t get any easier, though, as the Judges host WPI on Wednesday before traveling to Tufts for another rivalry game on Saturday, but they do so with wind in their proverbial sails.

Speaking of Babson, the battle for the NEWMAC should be interesting to watch this year. At 2-0-1, MIT is the only conference team without a loss — albeit the Engineers almost suffered one against Mass-Boston before equalizing with 11 seconds left and holding on for a 2-2 draw. Defending champion Springfield is off to a slow start, going 1-3-1, but their early slate has featured sides like St. Lawrence, Clarkson, and Stevens, so — combined with a veritable 1-1 draw at Williams — it's not unreasonable to expect that the Pride will rebound. Clark had a good weekend, with a 3-2 win at NESCAC foe Trinity and a 3-0 home victory over CCC side Roger Williams proving the perfect tonic for the Cougars’ mid-week defeat. Even with its aforementioned loss, preseason favorite Babson has started well, but faces massive tests in the next week, with games against Amherst and Williams bookending a match against Regis (Mass.). With lots of uncertainty, it’ll probably take a few more weeks to gain clarity about how these teams are stacking up.

The CCC should be pretty open this year. Defending champion Gordon began the year 1-2-1, dropping a pair of games on a road trip to Birmingham-Southern and Oglethorpe. Pre-season favorites Endicott have experienced a mixed start to the season but appear primed for an upswing. The Gulls lost their opener to visiting St. Joseph's (Maine), 2-1, before rebounding well with a 5-1 drubbing of NAC Champion Thomas. Conference play hasn’t started yet, but, as of the current point, Salve Regina is the only team left with an unbeaten record intact. If nothing else, the fact that all other teams in the conference have fallen at least once so far suggests that parity may be the name of the game this year.

St. Joseph’s (Maine) lost a lot during the offseason — both its senior spine and head coach Adrian DuBois, the latter of whom is now an assistant at Division I University of Vermont — but appear primed to keep their string of solid seasons the past few years. Will Pike, a 2011 graduate of St. Joseph’s and an assistant under DuBois, took over the top job this year and has guided the Monks to a 2-0-1 slate thus far, with wins over non-conference foes Endicott and Husson bookending a 0-0 draw at defending CCC Champion Gordon. A fourth consecutive GNAC Championship will be tough, though, as Norwich, the conference runner-up in 2016 and 2017, has started well at 3-1, with a loss to Middlebury the only defeat.

Upcoming Game of the Week

Tufts vs. Brandeis

This game has become one of the marquee fixtures in New England Division III soccer, as these two Boston-area schools have evolved into two of the top regional and national contenders this decade. Tufts, who won NCAA Championships in 2014, 2016, and 2018, faces off against a Brandeis side who logged two Final 4, one Elite 8, and three Sweet 16 appearances between 2012 and 2017 before missing last year’s Tournament. The Jumbos hold a 4-3 advantage in the series since these teams started playing regularly in 2013, but Brandeis has the biggest individual scalp with a 2OT win at Tufts in the 2017 Elite 8. Given the two teams’ contrasting fortunes last year, Tufts will enter as the favorite — both in the context of this game and nationally — but two of Brandeis’ aforementioned three wins have come on the road, so there’s plenty to play for. Rest assured, this is shaping up to be a hard-fought contest that will entertain spectators of all stripes.

 


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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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