The men’s soccer team won its second straight game against a NESCAC opponent on Saturday, Sept. 21, defeating the Bates Bobcats 1-0.
Coming off an inspiring 1-0 overtime victory over Tufts, the fourth-ranked team in New England, the Cardinals looked to carry the momentum into their second consecutive conference battle.
Captain Danny Issroff ’15 said after the Tufts game that Wesleyan must capitalize on its high from defeating the Jumbos to bring an offensive attack to the Bobcats. His expectations for Bates were respectful, but he thought that Wesleyan’s defense should be able to shut down the relatively ineffective Bates attack.
“We don’t expect them to have the same firepower that Tufts had, or that Bates has had in years past,” Issroff said before the Bates game. “Their front line isn’t what it could be, and we expect to capitalize on that on Saturday.”
Issroff’s prediction proved correct, as the poorly alignedBates offense managed just three shots on goal, all of which were turned away by Wesleyan keeper Emmett McConnell ’15. It was McConnell’s second shutout in as many starts; he is undefeated through three appearances in net, all of which have been against NESCAC opponents.
The game was scoreless until the 84th minute, when Brandon Sousa ’16 caught a rebound 30 yards from the net. He rocketed a shot in towards the goal, and his ball caught the bottom edge of the crossbar and bounced in for the goal. Matt Hertgen ’15 was credited with the assist after the rebound deflected off him and a Bates defender to Sousa.
The Cardinals dominated play in the first half, firing 11 shots, four on goal, compared to Bates’ two shots, neither of which were on goal. Wesleyan ended the game with the advantage in shots (21-9), corner kicks (10-4), and shots on goal (9-3).
Bates did surge in the second half, which looked to be trouble for Wesleyan. The Cardinals, who had not scored but controlled possession for the vast majority of the first half, allowed three shots on goal in the first half of the second period. The defenders let a Bobcat striker behind their defense, where he fired on net from 10 yards away. McConnell, though, stepped in front of the ball easily and turned the shot away, preserving the scoreless tie as the 70th minute ticked away.
The task of replacing NESCAC Player of the Year Adam Purdy ’13 this year looked herculean; the three goalies Wesleyan had to work with, McConnell, Billy Queen ’16, and Derek Grammer ’17, entered 2013 with 30 minutes of college soccer combined. But the Cardinals have found surprising consistency at the position. Helped out by a strong defense, the netminders have allowed just one goal in their three NESCAC games this season.
The Cardinals also had missed opportunities late in the game, as they twice put balls in the net that were nullified by the officials. The first was an offside call; the second was a handball inside the offensive zone just before the goal.
Wesleyan’s discipline proved strong. Despite having such a young team, the Redbirds were called for zero cards to the Bobcats’ three and just two fouls to the Bobcats’ nine.
Sousa, whose goal was just the highlight of an impressive offensive performance, finished the match with eight shots, four on goal, the latter stat outpacing the Bobcats’ team total.
The Cardinals benefitted greatly from strong communication on both ends of the field. This was their first game with all members of the varsity squad participating after the plethora of suspensions that plagued the team to open the season.
Wesleyan’s next game is Wednesday, Sept. 25 against Western New England University, after which all but one game will be against conference foes. Their next NESCAC game will be in hostile territory, as they play next Saturday, Sept. 28 at Hamilton for the Continentals’ “Fallcoming” game.