Ending the season on a positive note, the men’s soccer team trumped the Conn College Camels 1-0 on Wednesday, Oct. 29, to finish with a 6-4 NESCAC and 8-5-2 overall record. Playing on Jackson Field, the Cardinals hosted their conference rivals for a match with implications in seeding for the conference playoffs that are due to start this weekend.
“We were expecting Conn to come out with tons of energy, as they were fighting for a playoff spot, and we knew we would have to, at the very least, match their energy, if not surpass it,” wrote Dylan Hoy ’17 in an email to The Argus. “It’s always a battle when we play them, but honestly this time they seemed to have a little less bite in their play. Regardless, we had good energy and pressured well, which limited their chances offensively. As we head into the playoffs, we know that it’s less what our opponents do and more what we do as a team.”
“I thought it was a bit of a strange game actually,” wrote Captain Daniel Issroff ’15 in an email to The Argus. “[Conn] came out really flat, which was unusual for them because they usually play with a lot of energy and they still hadn’t technically qualified for the playoffs. We had to try and create our own intensity. I think we defended well; they didn’t have a lot of chances.”
Goalkeeper Emmett McConnell ’15—returning from a red card suspension that kept him out of the majority of last week’s match against Trinity and the entire game against Middlebury—notched three saves in the competition against Conn in addition to one team defensive save, marking his fifth shutout of the year. A four-year varsity veteran, McConnell ended the regular season with high marks: an 8-3-2 record, an 84.3 save percentage, and 0.56 goals per game average with 43 saves over 1278 minutes of play.
In a continuation of the prevailing pattern that has characterized the team’s season, Wesleyan outshot its opponent 14-12 while keeping Conn off the scoreboard. Capitalizing on a free kick, Hoy led the team to victory by scoring the game’s only goal in the 24th minute.
“I believe it was Adrian Reifsnyder [’16] who drew the foul with excellent hold up play outside the box,” Hoy wrote. “Coach [Geoff] Wheeler told me before the game that I would be in charge of set pieces while I was in, and as soon as I saw how far the free kick was from goal I knew I would be shooting it. I’ve practiced set pieces from this range many times, and at this point it was all about executing what I had practiced. This was the first time I’d really gotten a chance in a game to have a shot on goal from a free kick, and the only thing on my mind was scoring.”
To hold on to the lead, the Cards adjusted at halftime to maintain dominance for the rest of the game.
“The group that started played well following the goal, then Coach Wheeler made some changes to bring in players that have been starting most of our games,” Hoy wrote. “They knocked the ball around comfortably because we had the lead, but it seemed almost too comfortably at times. We adjusted at halftime and Coach Wheeler let the team know that our goal was to play in our opponents’ half, so that if we turned the ball over, Conn would have a much farther distance to go to attack our goal. This helped us a lot, and we were able to get good scoring chances in the second half while maintaining a sense of security in our own half.”
Looking ahead, Wesleyan heads up to Vermont this Saturday, Nov. 1, for a rematch against Middlebury to kick off the NESCAC postseason. The Birds head into the match as the fifth seed, while Midd is the fourth. In last week’s meeting against the Panthers, Wes lost 3-1 after taking the lead in the second half.
“To be honest, I’m pretty happy that we’re playing Middlebury,” Issroff wrote. “I think that we are a better team and in a way, the silver lining of our loss to them [last week] is that they probably go into the game expecting a bit of an easy ride. We’re all very confident that we can beat them, but as I’ve been saying the whole season, it’s going to have to be a complete performance with lots of focus and lots of energy. Other than that, we’ll be making small adjustments to fix some of the problems that we had with them last weekend, particularly with the movement of their front two. I’m sure they won’t give us nearly as much trouble this time around.”
This weekend, it becomes a one-game season for the Cards. The playoffs leave Wes in a do-or-die situation.
“We’re excited,” Issroff wrote. “We all know what we’re capable of, and it will require us playing at our highest level to get where we want to go.”
Asked to reflect on the close of the regular season, Issroff looked back at some of the better moments of the fall thus far with an eye on how the team hopes it will end.
“Obviously Amherst was the highlight of the season,” he wrote. “Those golden goals are always super exciting and to beat Amherst in such dramatic fashion was terrific. Other than that, I would say my favourite part of the season was the beginning. It’s always great getting back together with all of the guys after the summer and I think that we were playing with some real verve and swagger early on in the season. Hopefully we can recover some of that as we head into the playoffs.”
The winner of Wesleyan’s game this weekend will take on the winner of top-seeded Tufts against eighth-ranked Conn. In the other half of the bracket, Amherst will host Colby, while Bowdoin will take on the Ephs in Williamstown, Mass on Saturday.