Men’s Soccer Eyes NESCAC Championship This Fall
While many would consider the men’s soccer team’s 2011 campaign a rousing success, the players themselves have a hard time reconciling the accolades with the disappointing end of the season.
The Cardinal men stormed out of the gate to a 10-0-3 campaign heading into their final regular season game. At this point they had already been crowned Little Three champions for the first time in 19 years, had defeated multiple teams within the Division III Top 25, and had proven themselves to be a threat to any team inside or outside of their conference.
In the last game of the regular season, however, the wheels came off. Wes suffered an improbable 2-0 loss at home to Trinity College, costing the Cardinals the regular season NESCAC championship and dropping them down to the second seed in the playoffs behind Amherst. Losing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs would prove inconsequential, as Wesleyan suffered a first round exit to seven-seed Middlebury in topsy-turvy fashion. Though the Cardinals drew first blood, they eventually they fell by a score of 3-2.
Luckily the Cardinals season did not end there, as their historic start to the season earned them an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. They had hoped this would offer some redemption, but after defeating Misericordia 1-0 in the first round, they unfortunately lost to Rutgers-Camden 2-1 in the second round of the tournament.
Even though they lost starters Harrison Lewin ’12, Zachary Dixon ’12, and Steve Paresi ’12, the Cardinals return as a strong core that hopes to surpass the successes they enjoyed last year. Tri-captain Cabell Maddux ’13 will anchor a defense that enjoys the luxury of a top-flight stopper in goal. Adam Purdy ’13, also a tri-captain, has been one of the NESCAC’s best net-minders since winning NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors in 2009 and consistently has been named among the ‘CAC’s best. With Ben Bratt ’15, Spencer Tanaka ’15, and Ian Waldron ’13 returning, Wes hopes to be able to continue to play terrific defense no matter how potent an offense it faces.
In the midfield, second-team All American and tri-captain Rory O’Neill ’13 looks to retain the form that made him Wesleyan’s leading scorer as well as one of the best players in the conference last season. Joining him in the midfield are fellow seniors Noah Schlesinger and Chris Kuehn along with sophomores Danny Issroff and Matt Hertgen; all four saw considerable time last year. Together they will work to make the departures of Dixon and Paresi as smooth as possible.
On the attacking end, the diminutive tandem of Evan Hazelett ’13 and Walter Rodriguez ’13 has been possibly the best attacking duo in the conference for the past few seasons. Wesleyan can expect a lot of goals to accompany what looks to be a rock-solid defense.
“The three freshmen on the varsity roster, Chris Kafina, Hans Erickson, and Brandon Sousa, are great players and will all see time this season,” Purdy said, proving that Wesleyan will get a welcome injection of youth to go along with its experienced core.
With a talented match card and a proven penchant for winning close games, the Cardinals go into the season with high hopes. O’Neill remained optimistic about the team’s chances despite last year’s late season disappointments.
“We have won or shared the regular season championship two out of the past three years,” O’Neill said. “We have never made it to the NESCAC final in the tournament, so winning that is our primary goal.”
“This season, with the talent and experience we have, we expect to compete for not just a NESCAC title, but a National Championship,” Purdy added. With a group as talented as this one, none of these bold predictions seem at all far-fetched.
The men’s soccer team opens play Saturday, Sept. 8 at Bowdoin College.