No. 14 men’s soccer (1-0-0, 1-0-0 in the NESCAC) defeated Bates 3-0 last Saturday on the road in Lewiston, Maine, in its season opener. The Ephs rode an early scoring burst spearheaded by User Kushaina ’14 and Patrick Ebobisse ’13 to the victory.
Both teams came out looking to secure an early lead. Williams started out strong with two shots on goal in the first four minutes. In the 11th minute, Bates’ Ethan Hirshberg attempted a shot on goal, but keeper Peter Morrell ’14 was able to keep the ball from finding the back of the net to keep the game scoreless.
Kushaina scored the first goal for the men in the 14th minute of play. He went on a streaking run on the left side of midfield before maneuvering around a Bates defender and shooting from a position only five yards from the goal on the left side of the penalty box. The shot deflected off a second Bates defender, and into the net, leaving Bates goalie Greg Watts unable to stop the ricocheting ball. The goal set the Ephs on top 1-0.
Kushaina’s goal set the stage for the Ephs’ domination in the rest of the first half, and their second goal came only 12 minutes later. Rookie Zach Grady ’15 assisted Ebobisse, passing the ball backwards to Ebobisse outside the top right corner of the penalty area. Ebobisse connected with the ball to fire at an angle, and the the ball flew into the top left corner past Watts’ hands to score a beautiful goal to give the men a 2-0 lead.
Kushaina, continuing his strong game, then stepped up to for the Ephs’ third goal in the 27th minute, assisted by co-captain Nick Pugliese ’12. Only 80 seconds after the previous goal, Ebobisse played the ball to Pugliese on the left side of the field. The majority of the Bates defense followed, allowing Pugliese to cross the ball to an unguarded Kushaina. Kushaina then easily drove the ball into the net to put the men up 3-0.
The second half consisted of more balanced play, with neither team scoring. Both teams attempted several shots on goal, but the keepers stayed strong throughout, and the game ended with a 3-0 victory for Williams.
Statistically, the game was a seesaw affair in which Williams started strong, leading the first half with nine shots to Bates’ three. The Bobcats improved their attack in the second half, however, allowing the Ephs only seven shots and managing to attempt six of their own, although the Williams defense held strong. In the hotly contested affair, the game was contact heavy: The two teams combined to commit 23 fouls, and each team was given a yellow card.
The men’s success this weekend will hopefully help them to earn a third-straight Div. III NCAA bid. The men received an at-large bid to the tournament last season after falling to Wesleyan in the quarterfinals. Last season, the men’s championship hopes were stifled in a suprising double-overtime game in the semifinals to the squad from Babson. The Ephs tied for the Little Three Championship in 2010, but were unable to claim the NESCAC Championship, forcing the men to earn an at-large bid to the Div. III NCAA tournament. The men will look to reclaim the NESCAC Championship this year.
The men graduated eight players last year and added nine rookies to their roster this fall. “Eighteen of our 27 players on varsity are [first-years] and sophomores so we are pretty young,” said Head Coach Michael Russo.
Russo looks forward to the rest of the season, as the team has one victory under its belt already. “Our goals are to play an attacking style of soccer while at the same time trying to be the best we can in every match played. The first win is always a confidence booster,” he said.
Conference wins will be critical to earning a NESCAC Championship and an NCAA bid this season, and the men are gearing up for four consecutive conference games to start out the season. This afternoon the men will take on Hamilton, a new-comer to the conference, at 4:15 p.m., before taking on another conference rival in Trinity on Saturday at 1 p.m. This weekend’s games will take place at Renzi Lamb Field because of the flooding at Cole Field.