#1 Seed: Wesleyan
Record: 11-0-4 overall, 6-0-3 NESCAC
Ranking: #1 in New England, #4 in Division III
Past titles: 2005
How they got here: Wesleyan rolled to a 5-0 victory over Colby in the first round, tying the tournament record for goals in a game.
Skinny: What a difference a year makes. After giving up 27 goals in 15 games a season ago, the Cardinals have allowed just five in the same number of contests in 2009, two of which came in a 3-2 victory at Western Connecticut State. The Cardinals have recorded a school-record 11 shutouts thus far, including five straight heading into Saturday’s semifinal contest. Wesleyan also boasts five players with three or more goals in leading scorer Keisuke Yamashita ’10 (4-4-12), Geoff Zartarian ’11 (3-3-9), Asante Brooks ’10 (3-3-9), Noah Schlesinger ’13 (4-0-8), and Austin Woolridge ’11 (3-0-6). The semifinal appearance is Wesleyan’s first since 2005, as the Cardinals fell in the first round to Bates (1-0 in double overtime) in 2006, Bowdoin (2-0) in 2007, and Amherst (2-0) in 2008. Wesleyan has met Middlebury in tournament play once before, as the Panthers took a 3-1 victory in Vermont in the first round of the inaugural 2000 tournament. Notably, Wesleyan has played a tournament game against every NESCAC opponent except the other two Connecticut schools.
Player to watch: Adam Purdy ’13, goalkeeper. Purdy has been a key factor in the Cardinals’ defensive turnaround this season, as his 0.32 goals-against average and .926 save percentage lead the NESCAC and rank fourth in Division III. Purdy has not surrendered a goal in his last 492:14 and has stopped all 19 shots he has faced in his last five games, including six each against Amherst and Conn. College.
#2 Seed: Williams
Record: 12-2-1 overall, 6-2-1 NESCAC
Ranking: #2 in New England, #14 in Division III
Past titles: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006
How they got here: The Ephs remained unbeaten in their last 18 games against Conn. College (16-0-2) with a 3-0 quarterfinal victory against the Camels in Williamstown.
Skinny: After opening the 2008 season 7-2-0, the Ephs finished on a down note, going 1-4-2 over their final seven contests and missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997. At 12-2-1, Williams appears to be a lock for the NCAAs, but the Ephs are out for more. Williams has outscored its opponents 40-10 this season—a figure made even more impressive when a 3-0 loss to Trinity is removed—and has scored three or more goals in eight of its 15 contests. The Ephs also feature the NESCAC’s second-, third-, fourth-, and eighth-leading scorers. Williams is one of only two schools (along with Middlebury) that has reached the semifinals in all ten NESCAC tournaments. Williams stands at 17-3-1 against Bowdoin since 1983, including an 8-2 victory in 1989, and enters Saturday’s contest 4-0-0 against the Polar Bears in postseason play. The teams met in the 1989 ECAC sectional semifinals, 2001 NESCAC semifinals, 2003 NESCAC title game, and 1998 NCAA first round, with the Ephs recording a shutout each time.
Player to watch: Charles Romero ’11, forward. Romero stands as the Ephs’ leading scorer with 10 goals, including six game-winners, and six game-winners. Romero’s goals-per-game average of 0.67 ties him for first in the NESCAC, and he stands as the conference’s second-leading scorer with 1.73 points per game. Romero had the Ephs’ first goal against Conn. College in the quarterfinals and assisted on both other tallies, and he also scored three goals in the teams’ regular-season meeting, as he scored the first three goals of Williams’ 4-0 victory.
#4 Seed: Bowdoin
Record: 11-3-1 overall, 5-3-1 NESCAC
Ranking: #4 in New England
How they got here: Bowdoin shut out Trinity for the second time in eight days, cruising to a 3-0 victory over the Bantams in Brunswick.
Past titles: None
Skinny: Bowdoin comes into Middletown on a 6-1-1 tear, with a 3-2 home overtime loss to Williams the only blemish in their last eight games. The Polar Bears have shut out six of their last eight opponents, including a 0-0 double-overtime draw at Wesleyan on Oct. 3. Bowdoin has advanced to the semifinals two of the last three years, as the Polar Bears upset Wesleyan 2-0 in the 2007 quarterfinals. Bowdoin seems to do better the lower it is seeded; the Polar Bears suffered a 4-1 first-round loss to Wesleyan as the second seed in 2005 and were ousted by Amherst 2-1 in the 2002 semifinals, when they went 7-1-1 in conference play to earn the right to host—the only time in the first seven years of tournament play the championship was not held at Williams. Junior netminder Dan Hicks, in addition to having the NESCAC’s second-lowest goals-against average (0.65), has also proven to be an offensive threat, scoring his first career goal on an 80-yard free kick at Trinity last month.
Player to watch: Dan Hicks ’11, goalkeeper. Hicks boasts the NESCAC’s second-lowest goals-against average (0.65) and has given up just six goals in 14 games since a 2-0 season-opening loss at Amherst, half of which came in a 3-2 overtime loss to Williams. Hicks and the Polar Bear defense have recorded 10 shutouts in that span. While Hicks was held without a goal against Trinity on Sunday, he did make six saves in 85 minutes to help Bowdoin advance to the semifinals.
#6 Seed: Middlebury
Record: 9-4-2, 4-3-2 NESCAC
Ranking: #10 in New England (tied with Western New England)
How they got here: In a rematch of the last two NESCAC title games, the Panthers upset third-seeded Amherst 2-1 on a goal in the 90th minute.
Past titles: 2000, 2007
Skinny: The 2007 NCAA champions head into the weekend looking to advance to the tournament finals for the fourth straight year, a feat matched only by Williams. Middlebury has made it to the finals every year overall except for 2002, 2003, and 2005, including a run to the title game in 2006 as the fifth seed. Middlebury knows a thing or two about winning championships as the sixth seed, though, as the men’s lacrosse Panthers took down Trinity, Tufts, and Wesleyan to take the 2007 championship. Since a 3-0 loss at Amherst on Oct. 10, the Panthers have gone on a roll, winning five of their last six games, including a 1-0 home win over Williams on their final regular-season game that allowed Wesleyan to secure first place. Middlebury will also be playing to keep its NCAA hopes alive, as a loss would give the Panthers a 9-5-2 overall record and place them squarely on the bubble. Wesleyan missed the tournament in 2007 after a 10-5-0 regular season, so a loss would likely deal a crushing blow to Middlebury’s hopes of making the NCAAs for the fourth straight year.
Player to watch: Middlebury backfield. As the Panthers showed in their run to the 2007 title, during which they did not surrender a goal in the final six games of the season, defense is the name of the game in the postseason. Middlebury allowed only eight goals in 22 games that season—nearly half of which came in a 3-1 loss to Amherst—but allowed nine through their first nine games of 2009 and head into the semifinals having allowed 13 tallies in 15 games overall, the most of any semifinalist.
Sept. 12 – Wesleyan 1, at Williams 1 (2OT)
Sept. 26 – at Bowdoin 1, Middlebury 0
Oct. 10 – Bowdoin 0, at Wesleyan 0 (2OT)
Oct. 17 – Williams 3, at Bowdoin 2 (OT)
Oct. 18 – Wesleyan 2, at Middlebury 0
Oct. 30 – at Middlebury 1, Williams 0
2008 Championship Results:
(1) Middlebury 3, (8) Bowdoin 0
(2) Amherst 2, (7) Wesleyan 0
(3) Trinity 2, (6) Tufts 0
(4) Williams 3, (5) Bates 1
Middlebury 1, Williams 0
Amherst 1, Trinity 0
Amherst 2, Middlebury 0
2000 – Middlebury
2001 – Williams
2002 – Williams
2003 – Williams
2004 – Williams
2005 – Wesleyan
2006 – Williams
2007 – Middlebury
2008 – Amherst