In its first NESCAC game of the year, the men’s soccer team had its way with the Bowdoin Polar Bears, defeating the smallest school in the conference by a score of 3-1. Wesleyan, which improved to 2-0 on the season, scored the first three goals of the contest before Bowdoin broke the shutout with just under four minutes to go.
Chris Kafina ’16 led the way for the Cardinals, opening the scoring four minutes into the game. Brandon Sousa ’16 brought the ball up the left side and sent a long cross in from the sideline. Kafina was tightly defended, but the perfect pass was just out of the reach of the Bowdoin keeper, and all Kafina had to do was put his head on the ball to score his first goal in his season debut.
The game, which took place last Saturday in Brunswick, ME, looked to be a tight one as the scoring ceased for the remainder of the first half. It took until the 60th minute for the road team to strike again. Dylan Hoy ’17 sent an errant ball to the endline on the left side of the goal, where Kafina tracked the ball down and sent a crispy chip across the front of the net to Charlie Gruner ’17. The freshman sent the ball in from the right post to put Wesleyan up 2-0, and Kafina and Hoy both picked up assists on the play.
That was the story of the game for Wesleyan. Despite being outshot 18-10 in the contest, the Cardinals kept finding a way to put the ball in position to score. In in the 77th minute, Kafina was able to get behind the Bowdoin defense yet again to tally his second goal of the match. Wesleyan’s final goal looked like a mirror image of its first, although this time it was Nate Howell ’14 who sent the ball across from the right sideline to the incoming Kafina. The sophomore striker slipped past the goalie as the ball came in, redirecting it with his head to put the Cardinals up 3-0. The Bowdoin defenders were clearly frustrated and befuddled after Wesleyan’s final goal; two players threw their hands up in the air as the Cardinals moved back to midfield for the kickoff.
Bowdoin salvaged a scoring chance in the final minutes of the contest. Bowdoin freshman Austin Downing scored his first collegiate goal in his first-ever NESCAC game, streaking up center field following a midfield chip that sophomore Andrew Jones headed past the Wesleyan defenders. Downing collected the ball and put it under the reaching glove of Wesleyan keeper Emmitt McConnell ’15, but it was too little, too late for the hosts.
McConnell finished the game with eight saves in nine chances, his first career victory in his first start for the Cardinals after backing up Adam Purdy ’13 for each of the past two seasons. The Birds once again showed strong discipline in front of their net, tallying 12 fouls to the Polar Bears’ 20 fouls; Bowdoin also drew four cards to just one for Wesleyan. Bowdoin was not so fortunate in net, either. Only one member of the three-man goalie unit that the Polar Bears employed managed a save, and they combined to stop just two of Wesleyan’s five shots on goal.
Wesleyan returns to action next Saturday, Sept. 14 at home against Wheaton College, at 12 p.m. The Cards’ next shot in NESCAC play comes the following Tuesday, Sept. 17 in their conference home opener against Tufts at 4:30 p.m.