Men’s Soccer Clinches Third Seed in NESCAC Playoffs
After a stirring match against national powerhouse Amherst this past week, Wesleyan looked to continue to play at a high level and apply pressure in its season finale against Trinity. It did exactly that and came away with a 2-1 win, assuring it a rematch this Saturday in Middletown against the Bantams (5-5-4 overall, 3-5-2 NESCAC) in the conference playoffs. The Cardinal win ensured that the Little Three teams (all of whom drew against each other this year) will occupy the top three seeds in the conference. If the Cardinals can replicate their success against their rivals from Hartford this Saturday, they will likely get another chance at one of their historical adversaries.
The game began uneventfully. Both teams’ attempts to gain an advantage in the early going fell flat until the 33rd minute. Tri-captain Rory O’Neill ’13 continued his stellar run of play (which included the lone Wesleyan goal against Amherst) by sending a ball through the box and past a diving Trinity keeper to his partner in captaincy Cabell Maddux ’13. Maddux calmly lifted the ball over two Trinity defenders, and Wesleyan was off to a 1-0 lead. The first half ended rather quickly thereafter, with an 11-3 Wes edge on shots.
Perhaps because of its tepid first-half performance, Trinity came out in the second half with renewed vigor and got on the board just six minutes after play resumed. In the 52nd minute, Trinity junior Christian Carrasquillo managed to beat Wesleyan keeper Adam Purdy ’13 off of a pass from senior Anthony El-Hachem. Though Purdy has been steadfast in net all year, this one managed to escape his grasp and knotted the score 1-1. Luckily for the Cardinals, O’Neill continued his standout play and knocked in the game-winner 21 minutes later. In the same tandem that gifted Wesleyan a draw against Amherst, it was Walter Rodriguez ’13 who picked up the assist on O’Neill’s goal. Rodriguez led an unsuccessful charge on goal in the 73rd minute that was saved by Trinity’s keeper, but the Trinity defense succumbed to the ensuing pressure and coughed the ball up to Rodriguez. He then leveled a pass to O’Neill, who sent a powerful shot soaring into the back of the net, just as he had against Amherst. Though the second half was much closer in terms of shots (with Wesleyan leading 6-4), the Cardinals managed to win yet another close game, and they put themselves in a great position for the playoffs.
The senior leadership on this Wesleyan team is peaking at what seems like the perfect time. O’Neill, Rodriguez, Purdy, and Maddux are putting in notably dominant performances in the lead up to the NESCAC championship, and the team looks as though it could live up to its self-proclaimed league-champion potential.
The NESCAC Championship standings are now official, with Williams edging out Amherst in a coin flip (the tiebreaker for identical records) for the #1 seed. Wesleyan and Tufts will also host first round games as top four finishers against Trinity and Bowdoin, respectively. Provided they do not lose, Williams will host the entirety of the tournament, beginning with eighth seed Connecticut College this Saturday. Rounding out the first round of competition will be Amherst hosting seventh-seeded Middlebury. Wesleyan hopes to make the trek north to face its closest rival in the later rounds of the tournament.