Red-hot Ephs prepare to take on Tufts in NESCAC semifinals

Red-hot Ephs prepare to take on Tufts in NESCAC semifinals
HADLEY, Mass. – The Williams College men's soccer team looks to be peaking at the right time. The Ephs hope to demonstrate that this weekend as they battle Tufts, the defending NCAA champions, in a conference tournament semifinal Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
 
 
Top-seeded Amherst will host the remaining rounds of the NESCAC Men's Soccer Championship on Saturday, November 9 and Sunday, November 10 at Hitchcock Field. The semifinals are set for 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. The championship game will be played at 12 p.m. on Sunday. The NESCAC Champion will earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Championship.
 
No. 4 Williams (8-3-5) will face-off against No. 2 Tufts (12-2-2). The Jumbos shut out No. 7 Hamilton, 3-0 in the quarterfinals. Senior Brett Rojas scored two late goals to help Tufts pick up its fourth NESCAC Tournament victory. Tufts is in the semifinal round for the second time in three years, and won its only NESCAC title in 2017. The Jumbos rank second in the NESCAC in scoring, averaging 2.31 goals per game and boast six players with 10 points or more. Senior Joe Braun leads the Jumbos with 13 points (4-5-13). Junior Will Harned has seen the most time in net and owns five shutouts with a 0.77 goals against average, but Erich Kindermann picked up the shutout victory in the win over Hamilton.
 
"Tufts is a formidable, well-coached squad that can cause teams difficulty in numerous ways," Ephs' head coach Erin Sullivan said. "In many respects, they have been the standard bearer in our league in the postseason the past few years, so this is an awesome opportunity for our squad and we're looking forward to the challenge. The NESCAC is the deepest soccer conference in the nation, and this Final Four is exceptionally strong. The four teams vying for the league title this weekend (and all 11 in our conference for that matter) can beat one another on any given day, so execution, finishing, and mental toughness will play a massive role as always."
 
Williams, last year's NESCAC Runner-Up, blanked No. 5 Bates, 3-0, behind goals from three different players. The Ephs, who are unbeaten in their last nine matches (5-0-4), look to reach the championship game in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2012 and 2013, and capture the NESCAC title for the first time since 2009. Senior Demian Glass, one of just three players to start all 16 games, leads the Ephs in scoring with 15 points on seven goals and an assist. First-year Michael Davis is the top goalkeeper for Williams, owning seven shutouts with a 0.54 goals against average and a .816 save percentage. Defensively the Ephs are led by seniors Andrew Mathew and Liam Bardong and in the midfield by Jules Oberg. Key members of the senior class include Chris Fleischer, Bobby Fabricant and defender Teo Pollini.
 
"Our players and coaches are looking forward to the next step in our quest for the 2019 NESCAC Title," Sullivan noted. "Our season has had many twists and turns with an early rash of injuries and some wild finishes to matches, but all of it has been a learning process and our team has grown together in so many positive ways. Our players are stronger and more united now than at any point this season. We're in good form, healthy, and ready to peak in November."
 
Amherst (14-0-2) is hosting the semifinals and championship for the second straight year, but looking to reach the final for the first time since 2016, the last year the Mammoths captured the NESCAC crown. Amherst advanced to the semifinals behind a 2-0 victory over No. 8 Wesleyan. Senior Dane Lind scored both goals for the Mammoths and Bernie White made five saves for the shutout. Amherst has a potent offense, leading the league with 119 points on 42 goals and 35 assists. The Mammoths also possess a stingy defense, as they are tied for second with a team 0.60 goals against average. Sophomore German Giammattei has exploded for 20 goals and 44 points to lead the NESCAC in both categories, while Lind has handed out a league-best 10 assists. White is unbeaten in net (12-0-2) and owns a 0.45 goals against average to go with a .882 save percentage.
 
The Mammoths will meet No. 6 Middlebury (7-2-7) in the first semifinal match. The Panthers prevailed, 4-3, in a penalty kick shootout at No. 3 Connecticut College to advance to the semifinals for the fifth time in six years. Middlebury, which won its third and most recent NESCAC crown in 2010, boasts the top defense in the league, allowing a league-low nine goals this season. First-year goalkeeper Ryan Grady has six shutouts with a .886 save percentage and a 0.50 goals against average to anchor the Panther defense. Senior Drew Goulart (4-1-9) and junior Brandon Reid (3-3-9) are tied with a team-high nine points.  
 
Amherst and Middlebury played to a 1-1 draw, one of seven ties for the Panthers this season, on September 29. The NESCAC Tournament series is also even at 4-4-0. In the last meeting, a 2012 quarterfinal match, Amherst came away with a 4-0 victory.