November 14, 2013

D2-D3 College Journal: Upsets abound

By Phil Shore

Xavier Carty (17) and the Johnson and Wales Wildcats knocked off top-seeded Lasell to win the GNAC tournament title. (Johnson and Wales Athletics)


The saying is that once a team makes the playoffs, anything could happen. Conference tournaments in Division 3 men’s soccer proved how true that statement is.

Five No. 1 seeds failed to win their respective conference championships, and three of them were bested in the final game.

In the Great Northeast Conference, Johnson and Wales (14-1-6) won the championship in a very tightly contested match against No. 1 seed Lasell (15-3-2). The Wildcats had previously beaten the Lasers in the regular season, 2-1, thanks to two goals from O’Kyle Corridon. He was held in check in the rematch, but the Wildcats did get three second-half goals, two of them courtesy of junior Ray Durski, including the equalizer in the 81st minute.

Tied 3-3 at the end of two overtimes, the Wildcats would win the tournament championship on penalty kicks, 5-3. Johnson and Wales earned a berth to the NCAA tournament while Lasell failed to earn an at-large bid. It was the second year in a row the Lasers had the best record in the GNAC regular season but fell short in the conference tournament.

In the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, Wheaton (16-5-0) hasn’t lost a game since Oct. 12, when the Lyons fell 2-1 to MIT (13-4-2). Six wins later they faced MIT again, this time in the NEWMAC championship game. The difference was still one goal, but this time the Lyons were on the positive side of things.

Junior Ben Altneu (Orleans, Mass.) scored his seventh goal of the season in the 80th minute in order to down the Engineers, win the championship, and qualify for the NCAA tournament. MIT would also make the tournament as well.

Worcester State (11-4-4) hadn’t lost a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference contest all season. Going into the MASCAC Tournament, the Lancers had a six-game winning streak. They beat Mass. Maritime in the conference semifinals to extend the winning streak to seven games. Then they ran into Bridgewater State (10-7-3), the No. 3 seed in the tournament.

Previously the teams played to a 1-1 draw. In the championship match, however, Bears senior goalie Matt Bagley (Braintree, Mass.) made three saves to shut out the Lancers, and sophomore forward Conor Murtagh (Walpole, Mass.) scored in the 85th minute for the program’s third conference tournament title and first since 2007, which was also the last time the Bears made the NCAA tournament.

Bridgewater State’s win also kept Worcester State out of the NCAA tournament. The Bears will continue to take on top-ranked teams, this time opening the NCAA tournament against undefeated Amherst.

What the Bears – and equally the Wildcats and Lyons – proved, however, is that indeed any and every team is vulnerable. All three will hope to ride the momentum of their championship victories into more wins in the NCAA tournament.

Game of the Week

NCAA Division 2 Tournament, Second Round: Southern New Hampshire (18-1-0, 13-0-0 NE-10) vs. TBA, Saturday, 1 p.m.

The Penmen are on an 18-game winning streak and earned a bye into the second round of the NCAA tournament. They will await their opponent, but there is a chance it could be a rematch against the only team to have beaten them: Post.

The Eagles will face Wilmington on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Post has beaten Wilmington once this season, 3-1, and then advanced past the Wildcats on penalty kicks in the semifinals of the CACC tournament.

The Eagles beat the Penmen on the road 1-0 in the season opener for both teams. Redshirt sophomore Raphael Moura (Danbury, Conn.) scored the first of his five goals this season in that contest.

With so much at stake, it would be a highly intense matchup.

NESJ Division 2 Power Rankings (through Nov. 13)

1. Southern New Hampshire (18-1-0) – The Penmen opened the NE-10 tournament with a 5-0 romp over Saint Rose, then won the semifinal and final matches with two 1-0 shutout victories, earning the championship and advancing to the NCAA tournament. Scoring sensation Pierre Omanga tallied three goals, the game-winners in each NE-10 tournament match.

2. Post (15-2-2) – Despite big wins over the course of the season, the Eagles stumbled a bit in the CACC tournament. They tied Wilmington in the semifinals, advancing on penalty kicks. Then they lost 1-0 to Philadelphia in the championship match, coming in as CACC tournament runner-up for the third consecutive year. Still, Post advances to the NCAA tournament, where it opens up against Wilmington.

3. Merrimack (13-4-2) – The Warriors defeated Bentley in the first round of the NE-10 tournament, then bested Franklin Pierce on penalty kicks in the semifinals before falling 1-0 to Southern New Hampshire for the second time this season. That loss left Merrimack out of the NCAA tournament.

4. Franklin Pierce (8-8-2) – The Ravens initially lost their NE-10 quarterfinal match against Southern Connecticut, but advanced to the semifinals because the Fighting Owls’ use of an ineligible player resulted in a disqualification. The Ravens did as much as they could with their second chance, taking Merrimack to double overtime in a scoreless affair, but the Warriors ultimately advanced on penalty kicks. Freshman goalie Aiden Abolfazli (Worcester, Mass.) made his first career appearance against Merrimack and made nine saves.

5. Southern Connecticut (10-5-1) – The 10 wins the Fighting Owls had this season were the most since they won 14 in 2010.

NESJ Division 3 Power Rankings (through Nov. 13)

1. Amherst (15-0-2) – Unlike many other New England No. 1 seeds, the Lord Jeffs took care of business in their conference tournament. They were challenged, but came away with a 2-1 double-overtime victory against Bowdoin in the semifinals, and beat rival Williams 1-0 in the NESCAC championship game. The Lord Jeffs go up against Bridgewater State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

2. Brandeis (14-4-1) – The University Athletic Association doesn’t have a conference tournament, but the Judges finished the regular season strong. Their 2-0 victory over NYU meant the team was unbeaten in four consecutive games. Tyler Savonen (Orleans, Mass.) had a goal and an assist. Brandeis will take on Johnson and Wales in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

3. Western New England (15-4-3) – The Golden Bears beat Nichols in the CCC semifinals, 2-1 in double overtime, with the game-winner coming from leading scorer Jake Bartnik (East Longmeadow, Mass.). The Golden Bears then topped Roger Williams in the CCC championship, 2-0. Their first game in the NCAA tournament will be against MIT.

4. MIT (13-4-2) – The Engineers had a rough go of things in the NEWMAC tournament. In the semifinals, they needed penalty kicks to advance past U.S. Coast Guard Academy. In the finals, Wheaton College beat the Engineers 1-0.

5. Williams (11-6-0) – The Ephs defeated NESCAC No. 2 seed Wesleyan 2-1 in the tournament semifinals. Mohammed Rashid provided a goal and an assist. They lost 1-0 to Amherst in the championship game but have reached the NCAA tournament and will face NECC champion Elms in the first round.

6. Gordon (18-2-0) – After eight consecutive wins, the Fighting Scots fell to Roger Williams, 2-1, in overtime in the CCC semifinals. Leading scorer Andrew Vandervoort scored the game’s first goal in the 62nd minute but the team could not hold on to the lead. Still, Gordon was selected for the NCAA tournament and will take on Eastern Connecticut in the opening round.

7. Johnson and Wales (14-1-6) – The Wildcats have lost only one game all year and they weren’t about to lose a second in the GNAC tournament. They defeated Albertus Magnus 1-0 in the semifinals thanks to a Kyle Metz score. In the finals, JWU faced No. 1 Lasell. It was a high-scoring affair that saw the Wildcats score three second-half goals before winning on penalties. JWU will face Brandeis in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

8. Wheaton (16-5-0) – The Lyons earned a 1-0 victory over MIT in the NEWMAC tournament finals. After a 5-1 victory over Babson in the semifinals, Wheaton’s Matt Dickey (Newton, Mass.) made three saves for the shutout to win the conference crown. The Lyons face SUNY Plattsburgh to open the NCAA tournament.

9. Roger Williams (15-5-2) – The Hawks upended Gordon in the CCC semifinals with a 2-1 overtime victory before falling in the championship game against Western New England. Against the Fighting Scots, senior goalie Jon Pelloso (Wilbraham, Mass.) made 10 saves. The Hawks received an NCAA tournament at-large bid and will face Rutgers-Newark in the opening round.

10. Eastern Connecticut (12-3-4) – The Warriors put on an impressive display in the LEC tournament, beating Rhode Island College in the semifinals 4-1, then taking down UMass-Dartmouth 3-1 in the finals. Senior Mitch Powell (Douglas, Mass.) scored two goals in the championship game. The Warriors will take on Gordon in the first round of the NCAA tournament.