WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Third year Eph head coach Erin Sullivan '96 is looking to move his Williams team forward in NESCAC play and onto the national scene this fall after welcoming his second recruiting class in August.
Even though the Ephs lost eight players from last year's team that finished third in NESCAC with a 9-4-1 mark Sullivan is optimistic that this year's team is capable of improving on last season. "We're excited to get the 2017 campaign underway," Sullivan said. "This is a young, energetic, and determined team and we're eager to see what we're capable of. We continue to see improvements in the team's work-rate, decision-making, and overall attention to detail. These are promising signs, but we will need to mesh them together to create complete performances. As always, it will be our ability to be relentless in our defending, take our chances well, and capitalize on opponents' mistakes that will dictate our fortunes."
While the losses to graduation for the Ephs are significant Sullivan noted, "The past three national champions have come out of the NESCAC and five different NESCAC programs have made NCAA Final Four appearances in the past decade, so the competition in the league is at an unprecedented level. This makes for an incredibly exciting and meaningful regular season in which every single game is pivotal"
Of the eight players lost to graduation three were among the top five scorers for the Ephs last fall, one was a key back, and another the starting goalie that played virtually every minute in 2015 & 2016.
In the attacking third of the field Sullivan will need to find a replacement for the explosive and talented Mohammad Rashid who graduated. Last season Rashid tied with senior Mark Sisco-Tolomeo for team high in goals with five and he was also the Eph team leader in assists with six. Sisco-Tolomeo led the Eph attack in 2015 when he netted eight goals.
This season Sisco-Tolomeo will team with classmates Tom Young, a captain, and Malcolm Singleton to form what Sullivan considers a strong unit. Sisco-Tolomeo added one assist to his five goals last fall to generate 11 points, while Singleton tallied two goals and added three assists (7 points). The indefatigable Young is the consummate team-oriented front line player who has a knack for creating opportunities for his teammates with his high-energy approach. Senior David Madding along with promising sophomores Bobby Fabricant and Demian Gass will also see significant time in the attacking third of the field.
The Eph midfield will be led by experienced juniors Sean Dory who started all 16 games last fall, Eric Hirsch who played in all 16 games (with three starts) and Greg Andreou (15 games played/11 starts). This trio will be supported by sophomore Chris Fleischer (13 appearances in debut season) and several other players hungry to contribute. The Ephs expect considerably more offensive production from this contingent to become a more complete attacking side.
A year ago Sullivan started eight different combinations on the backline, but this year he will open with three experienced and talented defenders in captain Tobias Muellers a three-year starter, junior Scatt Macdonald and sophomore Andrew Mathew. The 6-3 Muellers comes forward on corner kicks and last fall he netted two goals in 15 games. Macdonald showed great promise in his four appearances before his season was cut short due to an injury. Mathew played in 11 games last year and made two starts to secure his spot this fall. Sullivan is seeking to find a replacement for the graduated Kevin Mercadante on the backline. Junior Milan Jones, versatile midfielder Greg Andreou, and first-year Nick Ranieri will all compete for the wing back position as key contributors.
The starting goalie position is up for grabs this season with the graduation of All-New England netminder Christian Alcorn who played every minute last season, notching six shutouts, and registering a .759 goals against average. Senior Bobby Schneiderman and junior Aaron Schein are battling it out in the preseason to see who will get the no in the season opener. "We have a lot of confidence in both Bobby and Aaron and their ability to contribute our team's success," noted Sullivan.
Sullivan's second recruiting class adds quality and depth and promises to create a more competitive training environment as well as provide the coaching staff with more depth and options at each position. Standout newcomers Eli Petrik (F/MF), Nick Ranieri (B), Ben Barton (B) and a host of other first years are expected to add depth and make meaningful contributions as the season progresses.
The 95th year of Williams men's soccer will begin with four games on the road and three of those contests will be NESCAC encounters. The season begins Sept. 9 in Hartford, Conn, when the Ephs take on Trinity College in their season and NESCAC opener at 3:00 PM. The next three games will be on the road as well with stops at RPI (9/13: 7:30 PM), Colby (9/16: 1:30 PM) and Bowdoin (9/17: 12:00 PM).
The first home game will be a NESCAC game versus archrival Amherst at 2:00 PM on Cole Field. "Our league is unequivocally one of the toughest in the nation and the recent results on the national stage have only affirmed that," stated Sullivan. "With our first three conference games away from home, points will be at a premium and we need to be prepared to grind out some results. We're excited about this team's potential in many different phases of the game and believe we have some players ready to emerge into key roles."
Yet again the Ephs will play one of the toughest schedules in all of DIII as they seek to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013. The addition of The U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Curry College to an already challenging 2016 schedule that features three teams that participated in the 2016 NCAA Tournament in Amherst, Babson, and Tufts (2016 NCAA champions) will both test and prepare this Eph team.