The fifth-seeded men’s soccer team ended its season last Saturday by losing in a double-overtime match to top-seeded Amherst in the NESCAC semifinals. Bowdoin’s 8-4-4 record was not strong enough to earn the team an at-large bid into the NCAA D-III tournament.
Despite ending their season with a loss, the Polar Bears fared well against the undefeated Lord Jeffs, who have been ranked No. 1 nationally for most of the season. After giving up a goal off a corner kick, the Polar Bears struck back when Matt Dias Costas ’17 capitalized on a rebound in the 56th minute.
Bowdoin was able to match the aggressiveness of the notoriously physical Jeffs and even had a couple opportunities to end the 1-1 draw in overtime. But Amherst secured the win when Justin Aoyama put the ball in the back of the Bowdoin net from roughly 30 yards out with only three minutes remaining before a penalty shootout would have decided the game.
After playing into Amherst’s strengths in a 3-0 loss earlier this season, the Polar Bears had to reevaluate their strategy to compete more effectively in their most recent contest.
“The game plan against Amherst is pretty simple,” said Head Coach Scott Wiercinski. “They play a very direct, very physical, very aerial style, and if you can deal with that, you’re going to be fine.”
“We just went up for every 50/50 ball in the mixer—we were challenging everything and just trying to be as physical as possible to match their size,” added Dias Costa. “But also the key is to just pass, move and work around them instead of going through them.”
Unfortunately, Bowdoin’s stronger performance was still not enough to defeat Amherst. Despite several chances to win the game, including Amherst’s need for an incredible save in the first overtime, Wiercinski’s inaugural season as coach came to an early end.
“It’s a small consolation prize that we played well [in the] last game,” said Wiercinski. “There’s kind of an empty feeling after that loss now that it’s over, and that’s the way I spoke to the team afterwards.”
The Polar Bears’ rough start to the season contributed to their failure to earn an at-large bid to this year’s NCAA tournament. The team didn’t earn its first conference win until nearly a month into the regular season.
Bowdoin began to rapidly turn the season around in October, however, improving from its 0-2-2-conference record to play 10 straight games without a loss, including a six-game win streak.
While many starters will return in the 2014 season, next year’s squad requires new leadership to succeed.
“There’s a big difference between following and leading, though, so some juniors are really going to need to step up,” Wiercinski said.