D2-D3 Journal: Familiar faces in Amherst
By Phil Shore
Ben Applefield (left) and Tyler Savonen celebrate what would prove to be the game-winning goal for Brandeis against Roger Williams in an NCAA second-round match Sunday. (Sportspix/Mike Tureski)
The third round of the NCAA Division 3 tournament is going through a phase of déjà vu.
Last season, Amherst, Brandeis and Williams all reached the round of 16 with their games being played at Hitchcock Field in Amherst, Mass.
This year, all three teams return to the same round at the same field. And for the second consecutive season, Brandeis takes on Williams in the round of 16.
“It’s fun. It’s interesting,” Brandeis head coach Mike Coven said. “The Williams coach and I are from the same town and we’ve been friends for years and years. We’re two of the longest-tenure coaches in Division 3. Our families are friends. It’s just always fun. It should be an even match and it should be a fun match.”
Last year, Williams edged Brandeis, 1-0, on a goal from then-senior Patrick Ebobisse, assisted by current sophomore Mohammed Rashid. It ended the Judges season while the Ephs would go on to the final four.
With many returning players with more experience under their belts, Coven feels his team can play to a different result this year.
“Last year we had not been in the NCAA tournament for many, many years. It was the first time in 20-something years,” he said. “It was a situation where everything was new to them. Now we’re excited but maybe more prepared. Most of the team is the same. The boys are used to the situation.”
Williams head coach Mike Russo was quoted on the school’s website also expecting a close contest Saturday.
“They possess the ball very well and have several dangerous front players,” he said. “They play in an excellent conference, the UAA, and have scored 54 goals in 21 games, so they are an excellent attacking team.”
The Judges do score a lot of goals, but their recent defensive form has been impressive. The team is riding a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1) and has not allowed a single goal during that stretch. Both streaks began in the wake of a 3-1 loss to Emory on Oct. 20.
“We had a real bad weekend losing to Carnegie Mellon and Emory. They are very good teams, but still two losses. The boys realized if they wanted to get back in the tournament they weren’t going to be able to lose any more games,” Coven said. “Our forwards work real hard to come back. It’s really good team defense. It’s not just our backs and goalies. It’s all 10 field players. They all come back after the ball.”
The Brandeis defense will have to continue its strong performances against a Williams offense that has outscored its competition in the NCAA tournament 8-1.
Both teams have been successful this season and a rematch of last year’s NCAA clash should make for compelling soccer.
“I’m expecting us to give a maximum effort, play with some intelligence, play with a lot of heart and to come out with a big win,” Coven said about his expectations for this weekend’s game.
Game of the Week
Southern New Hampshire (19-1-0, 13-0-0 NE-10) vs. LIU Post (18-1-2, 8-0-2 East Coast Conference), Friday, 10 a.m., at Erie, Pa.
The top two seeds in the East Region of the NCAA Division 2 tournament will square off with a trip to the national quarterfinals on the line.
The Penmen are riding a 19-game winning streak, with their only loss of the season coming in the season opener against Post. LIU Post's only loss also came against Post on Oct. 23. Now these two teams get to go head-to-head for the first time since 2011, when Southern New Hampshire beat LIU Post in the NCAA tournament, 2-0.
It’s a contrast in styles as LIU Post is fourth in Division 2 in goals per game (3.14) while Southern New Hampshire is first in goals-against average (0.40). Will offense or defense prevail?
NESJ Division 2 Power Rankings (through Nov. 19):
1. Southern New Hampshire (19-1-0) – The Penmen handily dispatched Wilmington, 3-0, thanks to two goals from senior Christian Rodriguez (Manchester, N.H.). Senior Brian Francolini (Ellington, Conn.) scored the other goal.
2. Post (15-3-2) – The Eagles' once-promising season came to an abrupt ending as Post couldn’t defeat Wilmington for a third time this season, losing 2-1 in double overtime in the NCAA first round. Sophomore Francisco Sastre scored his team-leading 12th goal in defeat. Post still finished with the best record in program history.
3. Merrimack (13-4-2) – Sophomore defender Ronald Ried was one of only two NE-10 players to receive Capital One Academic All-District honors, with Southern New Hampshire’s Jonathan Lupinelli being the other. Ried started and played in 17 games this season, scoring two goals, adding three assists and being a part of a defense that allowed only 0.51 goals per game.
4. Franklin Pierce (8-8-2) – The Ravens' season ended Nov. 8 in the NE-10 semifinals.
5. Southern Connecticut (10-5-1) – The Fighting Owls' season ended Nov. 5 in the NE-10 quarterfinals.
NESJ Division 3 Power Rankings (through Nov. 19)
1. Amherst (17-0-2) – The Lord Jeffs stormed through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They defeated Bridgewater State and Gordon by a combined score of 8-0. Amherst will host St. Lawrence in the next round, Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
2. Brandeis (16-4-1) – Junior Tyler Savonen (Orleans, Mass.) scored once in the Judges' 3-0 win over Johnson and Wales, then scored the lone goal in the 1-0 victory over Roger Williams in the second round of the NCAA tournament. He leads the team in goals and points.
3. Williams (13-6-0) – The Ephs allowed their first two opponents in the NCAA tournament to muster only a combined eight shots. Goalie Peter Morrell (Brunswick, Maine) earned two wins without making a single save.
4. Western New England (16-5-3) – The Golden Bears topped MIT 2-0 in the first round of the NCAA tournament thanks to goals from Kevin Parma and Jake Bartnik (East Longmeadow, Mass.). Williams ended their run, however, with a 4-1 win one day later.
5. Roger Williams (16-6-2) – The Hawks surrendered the first goal in their opening match against Rutgers-Newark, but scored three unanswered goals to advance. They then fought Brandeis tough, but fell 1-0, ending the season.
6. Gordon (19-3-0) – Senior Kellen Kasiguran scored the lone goal in the 65th minute of an NCAA tournament opening-round game vs. Eastern Connecticut. It was the program’s first-ever tournament victory. In the next round, the Fighting Scots fell to Amherst, 5-0.
7. MIT (13-5-2) – The Engineers ended the season on a two-game losing streak. After falling in the NEWMAC final to Wheaton, MIT lost to Western New England 2-0 in the first round of the NCAA tournament, despite outshooting the Golden Bears 28-10.
8. Wheaton (17-6-0) – The Lyons topped Plattsburgh State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 2-0, as Travis Blair netted his team-leading 17th goal of the season. Things took a dramatic turn for the worse when they lost in the following round to St. Lawrence by a score of 8-0.
9. Johnson and Wales (14-2-6) – It took until the first round of the NCAA tournament, but the Wildcats finally suffered their second loss of the season in a 3-0 loss to Brandeis. Junior goalie Ryan Dzierzawski made six saves in the loss.
10. Eastern Connecticut (12-4-4) – Freshman goalie Greg Walton (Brunswick, Maine) made four saves in the team’s 1-0 loss to Gordon in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Warriors went 5-2 in 1-0 games in 2013, winning the first five before losing the final two.