WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS. – Fifth year head coach Erin Sullivan '96 has graduated six players from last year's NCAA Tourney team that finished the season with a record of 10-6-3 and advanced to the finals of the NESCAC Tournament and made the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013.
The Ephs defeated Middlebury at Middlebury 1-0 in the first round of the 2018 NESCAC Tourney on a goal from Williamstown native Eric Hirsch, successfully reversing a 2-0 loss to Middlebury at home in the regular season.
In the NESCAC semifinals at Amherst the Ephs defeated Hamilton 2-0 with second half goals by Demian Gass and Eric Hirsch to advance to the championship tilt versus Colby.
One hundred and ten minutes was not enough time to generate a goal in the NESCAC championship game so Williams and Colby went to a penalty kick shootout to determine the conference champion.
Colby prevailed in the shootout 4-3 to earn the NESCAC's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament and the Ephs earned an At-Large berth.
In late May a twelve day, three country, and four-game trip through Switzerland, Germany and Italy provided Sullivan with a chance to get his returning players on the field to show what they can offer this fall. "We were privileged to have been granted the opportunity to travel through Europe together in particular to do so with our first three recruiting classes. The benefits to our team and players were innumerable. For me, it was awesome to witness the cultural exchange, team building, and world soccer education that occurred throughout the trip."
Key among the losses to graduation from the previous season is last year's starting goalie Aaron Schein who started 18 of the 19 contests last fall and notched eight shutouts. Sophomore Teddy Rader and first-year Michael Davis will compete for the starting goalkeeper position. Both goalkeepers have started preseason in strong form and Sullivan is excited about the early indicators as these two netminders gain experience. "Both Teddy and Michael have played like veterans in preseason. Their athleticism, shot-saving ability, and foot skills are outstanding, and they are both exceptionally intelligent young keepers. The focus has been on their vocal presence and ability to make simple decisions in distributing out of the back."
Also graduating were the Ephs two captains, centerback stalwart Scatt Macdonald and All-NESCAC midfielder Greg Andreou. Macdonald played in every minute of every game and Andreou started 15 games tying for team high in goals scored with four while registering one assist. Two of Andreou's four tallies were game-winners.
Sullivan does have two All-NESCAC honorees from last year back in midfielder Chris Fleischer and defender Liam Bardong. Fleischer led the team in points in 2018 with four goals and five assists for a total of 13 points. Bardong will be a key piece in the Eph backline having played a significant amount his first three years for Sullivan. Last fall Bardong appeared in all 19 contests and started 16 and he notched one goal. Bardong, Fleischer, and senior forward Demian Gass will serve as the team's tri-captains.
Five players return this fall having played in 12 or more games a year ago up front or in the midfield. Senior forward Bobby Fabricant scored three goals and added two assists last season in 19 games, registering 14 starts. Sophomore Will Felitto who scored one goal and assisted on another at forward is back along with Nathan Song who saw time both up front and in the midfield. Song mirrored Felitto with a goal and an assist in his debut season. Justin Adams is another sophomore who split time between up front and in the midfield and in 14 appearances last season he assisted on two goals and scored one.
Another returnee who will be counted on to add firepower up front is senior forward Demian Gass who due to injures was limited to just nine games in 2018. The dynamic Gass scored four goals in his nine appearances to tie for team high in goals scored and his two game winning scores tied for team high as well. With his explosive speed and finishing ability, Gass will add a lethal element to the Eph attack. Gass tallied the Ephs' lone goal in their 2-1 NCAA Tourney loss to Elizabethtown College in a game played at Cortland State (N.Y.).
One thing Sullivan and his staff will be out to improve on this fall is the Ephs' offensive production. Last season the Ephs averaged 1.37 goals a game. The good news is the Ephs only allowed 0.70 goals a game. An increased focus on possession-based attack will help the Ephs sustain possession in the front half and bring more of their attacking weapons into each game.
Entering the preseason, seniors Demian Gass, Bobby Fabricant, junior Eli Petrik, and sophomores Will Felitto, Justin Adams, and Nathan Song will all vie for attacking roles up front. The athleticism, speed, and depth of this attacking corps is impressive and should bode well for the Ephs attacking creativity and initial defending in the front half.
"We believe we have many quality options in our front 6 and an opportunity to be a very deep and difficult matchup for our opponents. This team is fully committed to sharing roles and circulating the ball to achieve results together. As always, it will be our ability to compete on both sides of the ball, execute simple solutions, and capitalize on opponents' mistakes that will be vital to earning victories."
Senior captain Chris Fleischer will be one of the midfield leaders along with experienced sophomores Nick Boardman, Jules Oberg, Jake Saudek, and a handful of other promising young players. Fleischer played all 19 games last season, starting 17. He tied for team high in goals (4), led the Ephs in assists (5) and in points with 13. Boardman and Oberg appeared in all 19 games last fall, each tallying their first collegiate goal in their rookie season, while showing tremendous composure in big games. Fellow sophomores Brady Foehl, Henry Osborn, and Jake Saudek will add depth to a versatile and fit midfield unit.
Anchoring the backline will be seniors Liam Bardong, Andrew Mathew, and Teo Pollini. Juniors Nick Ranieri and Ben Barton add leadership and experience, while sophomores Jake Peters and Jamie Holland have shown considerable promise turning into their second season at Cole field.
There are some question marks in terms of lineup and rotation, but mostly the questions to be answered are which combinations will work the best as there is a good amount of game-tested talent throughout the Ephs team.
While determining his strongest lineup to start the game Sullivan will also be working on developing young talent to provide depth and build for the future.
The coaching staff is very excited at the potential of a deep and experienced senior class leading the squad through the ever-challenging NESCAC schedule, 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 our culture of teamwork, tenacity, and unselfishness."
Williams will open the 2019 season at home on Sept. 4 when they host the Springfield College Pride in a 5:00 PM contest on Cole field. Springfield is coached by former Eph assistant coach Tommy Crabill who is in his second year at Springfield. Three days later, the Ephs will open the 2019 NESCAC campaign against Tufts at home on Sept. 7.