Polar Bears Edge Foes on Final Day for Top Seed
HADLEY, Mass. – For only the second time in tournament history, Bowdoin College has earned the number-one seed in the NESCAC Men's Soccer Championship. The Polar Bears - winners of their last 10 matches by a combined score of 32-2 - will look to win their first conference crown when the 2010 edition of the NESCAC Men's Soccer Championship begins on Sunday, Oct. 31 with quarterfinal action. Bowdoin will serve as a first round host along with defending NESCAC champ Williams, Middlebury, and Amherst, with all games slated for a 12:00 p.m. start.
Arguably one of the hottest teams in the nation at the moment, top-seeded Bowdoin (11-1-2, 6-1-2 NESCAC) got exactly what it needed on the final day of the regular season. Bowdoin locked up the number-one seed in the conference tournament for the first time since 2004 with a 1-0 victory at Tufts on Friday combined with Williams' 3-0 decision over Middlebury. Although the Polar Bears finished tied atop the NESCAC standings with the Ephs, their 1-0 victory at Williams on Oct. 16 gave them the head-to-head advantage. Friday's win was also monumental for Bowdoin, as the team's 10th in a row set a new program record for consecutive victories. The Polar Bears will play host to eighth-seeded Bates (5-8-1, 2-6-1 NESCAC). The Bobcats finished in a three-way tie with Connecticut College and Trinity for the final playoff spot after falling to Colby in overtime on Friday, 3-2. All three teams finished tied 1-1-0 in head-to-head competition, but Bates emerged from the pack by having the best record against the top four teams in the conference. The Bobcats and the Polar Bears met all the way back on Sept. 18 and played to a scoreless tie in Lewiston, snapping Bowdoin's seven-game winning streak over Bates. Amazingly, these Route 196 rivals will meet for the first time in NESCAC tournament play this Sunday.
For second-seeded Williams (11-1-2, 6-1-2 NESCAC), the 2-0 setback to Bowdoin has been its only loss so far this season. The Ephs rebounded nicely in their final three regular season games, finishing the conference schedule in convincing fashion with a 3-0 victory over Middlebury. When it comes to the NESCAC championship, no team has more titles than Williams, as the Ephs have won six of the previous 10 awarded. During last year's championship, the Ephs overcame a familiar tournament foe in the form of the Panthers with a 2-1 overtime victory. Williams will face Little Three rival Wesleyan (7-7-0, 3-6-0 NESCAC), the seventh seed. A year ago, the Cardinals finished atop the NESCAC standings for the first time ever. This fall, it took a win on the final day of the regular season to guarantee Wesleyan a spot in the championship, as junior midfielder Steve Paresi (Armonk, N.Y.) put his team into the playoffs with the decisive goal in double overtime, a 3-2 victory over Constitution State rival Connecticut College. Wesleyan and Williams opened the season together in Middletown with the Ephs edging the Cardinals in the second overtime, 2-1. While Williams holds a 3-1 lead in the playoff series, this will be the first tournament meeting between the two since Wesleyan downed Williams 1-0 in the 2005 semifinals en route to its first league title as the seventh seed.
Middlebury (11-3-0, 6-3-0 NESCAC) controlled its own destiny heading into the season finale, as the Panthers had the opportunity to lock up the number-one seed on Friday at Williams. Hoping to secure the top spot for the second time in three years, the Panthers fell short after the aforementioned loss to the Ephs, 3-0, and finished tied in the standings with Amherst. Middlebury garnered the third seed in this year's tournament thanks to a 1-0 win over the Lord Jeffs on Oct. 9. The Panthers were not only tough to beat at the start of the season, they couldn't be scored upon, as Middlebury earned seven straight shutout victories before allowing any goals in what was a 2-1 double-overtime loss at Colby on Oct. 2. The tables have turned on the Panthers recently with two shutout losses and they will look to get back on track against sixth-seeded Tufts (5-7-2, 3-4-2 NESCAC). After missing out on last year's championship, the Jumbos are back and hope to reach the semis for the first time since 2001. In order to do that, they will need to do something they haven't done since 1999 - beat the Panthers. The two-time NESCAC champs are 13-0-2 in their last 15 meetings against Tufts, which includes a 4-0 mark against the Jumbos in NESCAC championship action. The Panthers won the lone meeting of the regular season on Sept. 11 on the road, 1-0.
Fourth-seeded Amherst (10-1-3, 5-1-3 NESCAC) will take on fifth-seeded Colby (7-6-1, 4-5-0 NESCAC) in what will be the first-ever tournament match between the two. The Lord Jeffs have been impressive as of late, going 5-0-0 to finish the season after suffering their only loss of the year, 1-0 at Middlebury, and included in that stretch is Amherst's 1-0 double-overtime victory at home against Colby on Oct. 16. The Mules, meanwhile, got a win when they needed it the most, snapping a three-game losing skid on Friday with a 3-2 overtime victory at Maine rival Bates. A year after making the NESCAC championship for the first time ever, Colby went a step further with their highest finish in the conference standings ever. The Mules will be looking for another program milestone on Sunday in the pursuit of their first semifinal berth. The Jeffs have other plans, as the 2008 NESCAC champs hope to return after missing out on the semis in 2009, their first absence over the past five years. Since falling at Colby 3-2 in 1997, Amherst has won each of the last 13 meetings.
2010 NESCAC MEN'S SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP
Quarterfinals - Sunday, October 31 at Higher Seeds
No. 8 Bates at No. 1 Bowdoin - 12:00 p.m.
No. 7 Wesleyan at No. 2 Williams - 12:00 p.m.
No. 6 Tufts at No. 3 Middlebury - 12:00 p.m.
No. 5 Colby at No. 4 Amherst - 12:00 p.m.
Semifinals - Saturday, November 6 at Highest Remaining Seed
11:00 a.m./1:30 p.m.
Championship - Sunday, November 7
Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m.