Men’s soccer heads to NCAAs

Men’s soccer (11-2-2, 6-1-2 in the NESCAC) is getting a second chance at a postseason run. Though the men lost their chance at the NESCAC automatic bid to the NCAA tournament after the team fell to Wesleyan in a disappointing 2-1 overtime NESCAC quarterfinal loss on Oct. 31, the Ephs’ strong performance throughout the season garnered the team an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.

“We’re thrilled we got the bid,” co-captain Joe Vella ’11 said. “We knew we had a very good chance, but you never know. Losing early in the NESCAC tournament was tough, especially with the expectations we [had] set for ourselves. However, the team got a taste of what the end of the season feels like, and we aren’t looking to feel that again this weekend.”

Williams, which has also been selected as a first and second round host, will play Suffolk at an as-yet-undetermined time on Saturday afternoon. Cole Field will also be the location of a first-round game between Babson and Salem State; the winner of that game will face off against the victor in the Williams-Suffolk match in Sunday’s second-round competition. Times for this weekend’s games had not yet been set at the time of reporting.

The Ephs’ last NCAA appearance was in 2009, when the men made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to Messiah 2-1. Thanks to a NESCAC tournament loss in 2008, that year’s team did not advance to NCAAs, but this year’s seniors did make it to the third round of NCAAs their rookie season. This season marks the 16th time in 18 years that Head Coach Mike Russo has led his team to NCAAs.

“Our goals heading into the NCAA tournament are simple: To play at the top of our game, every game, and to go as far as possible,” Vella said. “Ideally we would head back to the Final Four, but we’re going to need to play our best soccer to make it happen. I think our guys are ready.”

The NCAA championship will continue through December, with sectionals taking place Nov. 19 to 21 and play moving to San Antonio, Texas for semifinals on Dec. 3 and the title match on Dec. 4.