WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — The 2016 Williams College men's soccer season will kick off with a distinctly home flavor as the Ephs play their first six games of the season on Cole Field. Williams will look to remedy a 2-4-1 home record from last season when they open with a NESCAC tilt against Trinity College Saturday. Following the first six matches of September, the Ephs have a titanic clash with archrival and reigning national champion Amherst College in their first road match of the season on Saturday, September 24th.
Williams will feature considerably more experience and depth on its roster this fall with a strong nucleus of 21 returning players that includes seven seniors. The Ephs' will be captained by seniors Christian Alcorn, JC Bahr-de Stefano, and Kevin Mercadante and led by a strong-willed and deep senior class that is eager to return to the postseason stage after two disappointing campaigns that saw the Ephs' season end in the NESCAC quarterfinals and two league rivals go on to win national titles.
"The upcoming season feels like a clean slate and a fresh chance to reestablish ourselves on the conference, regional, and national levels," Ephs' head coach Erin Sullivan said. "Our upperclassmen have put forth tremendous effort and made many sacrifices over the past nine months and we're eager to see what we can accomplish together. This is one of the most closely-connected and determined teams we've witnessed in recent memory and that is always important as you face the inevitable highs and lows of any college soccer season.
All-NESCAC forward Mohammed Rashid (6 goals, 6 assists in 2015) leads a potent attack that will feature many different options. Mark Sisco-Tolomeo '18 returns for his junior season after leading the team with eight goals in 2015. Seniors Malcolm Moutenot and Rashid, juniors David Madding, Malcolm Singleton and Tom Young, and a host of younger players vying for key minutes will flank Sisco-Tolomeo.
Senior captain JC Bahr-de Stefano who will be supported by fellow senior T.L. Guest and sophomores Greg Andreou and Sean Dory among several other key contributors will lead the Ephs' midfield. The Ephs expect considerably more from the playmaking role to supply its lethal attack with a steady diet of final passes and set piece service.
On the backline, Williams will rely on the continued emergence of captain Kevin Mercadante '17, Tobias Muellers '18, Andrew (Scatt) Macdonald '19, and a host of others including versatile senior Brandon Dory '17, a rejuvenated Patrick Gordon '18, Milan Jones '18, and several newcomers.
The Ephs return veteran goalkeeper and senior captain Christian Alcorn who will be challenged for the starting role by junior Bobby Schneiderman and sophomore Aaron Schein. The trio is a deep and experienced goalkeeping corps that will focus on a stronger presence in the defensive end and vocal leadership in organizing the backline.
"We believe we can improve on our goal differential on both sides of the equation," Sullivan said. "We simply have to reduce the number of quality chances we concede, bring our team goals-against-average well below 1.00, and strengthen our ability to excel in every phase of the game. We learned many painful lessons over the course of a trying season last year with eight overtime matches and we're confident that our players are looking forward to achieving different results from similar defining moments in the season ahead. As always, it will be our ability to dominate both sides of the ball, execute simple solutions, and punish opponents' mistakes that will dictate our fortunes."
Sullivan's first recruiting class adds quality and depth to the squad 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 Chris Fleischer (Washington D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year), Bobby Fabricant, Liam Bardong, and a host of other first-years are expected to make meaningful contributions as the season progresses.
"Our goals are simple and direct," Sullivan noted. "We want to be relentless in our pursuit of the ball, score the first goal, and close games out better. Our ability to sustain a high level of possession and pressure for 90 minutes and beyond will be key to getting results that position us for the postseason. The blue-collar, hard working teams within NESCAC are achieving consistent success and these qualities are a hallmark of Williams Soccer, something we look forward to reaffirming in the months to come."
The coaching staff is very excited at the potential of a deep and experienced senior class, Sullivan said. "We have a veteran group that has contributed to nearly every facet of preparation and planning for the upcoming season. We believe they are poised for a huge senior campaign as they continue to strengthen a culture of teamwork, tenacity, and unselfishness."
The Ephs, who featured one of the strongest strength of schedules in the nation last fall, will play five teams that participated in the 2015 NCAA Tournament in Amherst, Babson, Bowdoin, RPI, and Tufts.
"We have tremendous respect for each and every team on our nationally competitive schedule. We are eager to compete for the 2016 NESCAC and Little Three titles and rekindle the rich history of Williams Soccer on the postseason stage," Sullivan said. "It is a privilege to compete on Cole Field and we look forward to carving out a new chapter of Williams soccer this fall."