The Cardinals dropped yet another game in overtime in Hartford on Wednesday, making the 3-2 loss to the Bantams of Trinity College Wesleyan’s third overtime loss of the season and its second in a row, following last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Williams on Jackson Field in double overtime.
Throughout regulation on Saturday against Williams, however, the Cardinals looked poised to end their losing streak. Wesleyan looked strong in possession throughout the first half. With just over eight minutes remaining in the half, Brandon Sousa ’16 ripped a shot off the crossbar, the Cardinal’s first of three chances off the woodwork on the day.
The Cards looked even sharper in the second half and had the Ephs on their heels for the majority of the period. The best two chances of the half came from sophomore winger Taylor Chin, who blasted two shots off the crossbar midway through the half. The first was a strike of next level quality, as Chin cut in from the left flank onto his right foot, carrying the ball toward the middle before blasting a dipping and bending shot, which struck the face of the crossbar and bounced back out into play. Three minutes later Chin once again cut from left to right, smacking a pure, but always rising strike into the top of the crossbar.
Overtime ensued as the Cardinals failed to capitalize on their second half momentum. Wesleyan was on top in the first overtime period, but its hold on the game seemed to be slipping. A characteristically experienced, albeit struggling Williams team caught out the Cardinals just 39 seconds into the second overtime period, as Mark Sisco-Tolomeo’s rebound off a Rashid Mohammed strike found the back of the net to keep their four-season unbeaten streak against the Cardinals alive.
The Cardinals had a quick turnaround, traveling to Hartford on Wednesday to face a feisty Trinity side capable of scoring many goals. Those came quickly in a fast and furious, end-to-end first half. Trinity opened the scoring on its opening attempt, as Cody Savonen finished on the half-volley from a through ball. The Cardinals responded quickly, however, equalizing courtesy of a header from senior captain Ben Toulotte, who scored his first career goal from a Sousa corner kick.
The Bantams raised the stakes just a few minutes later, taking a 2-1 lead after Tobias Gimand’s flicked header to the back stick found the net off a Savonen cross that was dinked in from the left flank. Garrett Hardesty ’18’s high pressure and hard running got the Cards back in it with 15 minutes left in the half.
“I saw the defender look up at the center back as if he was going to pass it to him, so I took off towards the center back,” explained Hardesty. “It was a 50-50 between me and center back, and the ball just popped out to me. I was like, ‘Right on’ and I played the ball to Adam [Cowie-Haskell ’18,] who was on top of the box. I ran inside, towards the goal, as he dribbled to the end line, where he played a ball across to me and I had an easy pass into the goal.”
The Cardinals dominated the second half, threatening from a host of attempts, while Trinity were forced to rely on the counterattack. However, the Cardinals seemed to lack the composure to find the winner, as chances left wanting piled up through the second half and first period of overtime.
In the second overtime period, as legs tired and frustration grew for the Cardinals in the attacking third, Trinity capitalized with a scoring move against the run of play. Trinity’s Gimand got the ball deep in his attacking right corner, and floated in a hopeful ball that found an open Sam Millbury, who thundered home a full volley from the penalty spot with the laces of his right foot to hand the Cardinals their third consecutive loss. What’s worse, Milbury’s goal made it on to the NESCAC snapchat story, adding insult to injury for the sliding Cardinals.
Wesleyan needs to bounce back quickly before its trip to perennial NESCAC power Amherst, whom the Cardinals defeated 2-1 in double overtime for the first time in seven years last season. The Lord Jeffs are a perfect 8-0 this season in the NESCAC, and the Cards will be hoping to topple their Little Three rivals from their pedestal for the second time in as many season. No matter the implications for the season, though, this matchup is always personal, and fiercely competitive. Amongst other things, the matchup is a homecoming forCaptain Hans Erickson ’16.
“Personally, I love playing in Amherst,” Erickson said before Saturday’s clash. “It’s definitely a strange experience being the away team in my home town but the atmosphere is always awesome and I always find myself a little extra hyped to play.”
However, the matchup certainly has major implications for the Cardinals’ season, which needs new life.
“This game means a lot not just for me, but for our team as a whole,” Erickson said. “Unfortunately, we’ve been on a bit of a skid recently and there is no better way for us to break out of it than to go up to Amherst and get a result. A lot of teams are afraid to play against them because they are so physical and apply a lot of pressure on the ball. Fortunately for us, we aren’t one of those teams. Our squad is very technical and we can move the ball better than anyone when we are at our best. Despite our current position in the league table I have full confidence in our abilities as a group and I am fired up to go into Amherst and prove we are the best team in the ‘CAC.”
Indeed, the Cardinals certainly proved last season that they can dictate the tempo against Amherst. The Lord Jeffs will try to physically bully Wesleyan out of the game, but a complete team effort, good decision making in possession, and a bit of magic might just be enough to turn Wesleyan’s season around.