All eyes were on the men’s soccer team (2-2-0) on Tuesday as it took the field in a non-conference game against Husson University (1-4-1) that ended in a 2-1 win for the Polar Bears. Over opening weekend, the team lost two games to Amherst (2-0-0) and St. Joseph’s College (5-0-0). Captain Jake Stenquist ’19 encouraged the team to look at Tuesday’s game as a new opportunity to win.
“[After losing] against Amherst it was most important to [acknowledge] what we need to better and reflect on that game. Our coach says ‘Don’t let Amherst beat you twice.’ [Meaning] don’t let [Amherst] beat you on Sunday because of your attitude. We came out [Tuesday] and we got a win,” said Stenquist.
“When I was in high school my coach said, ‘losing is fertilizer for growth,’” said Moctar Niang ’19, a 2017 All-NESCAC performer. “I think we should be proud of our performance, and I’m sure we’ll look back in November and say it’s great Amherst taught us a lesson. We’ll beat them when we see them again.”
In the Husson game, the Polar Bears held a 12-0 shot advantage. In the previous games against Amherst and St. Joseph’s, the shot ratio told a different story, with Bowdoin trailing 10-6 and 13-11 respectively.
“The shot ratio is a pretty good gauge of who dominated for the most part,” said Niang. “[But] there are definitely some games where you might not take as many shots. Our coach stresses having our shots on target because it maximizes the chances of it going in.”
Stenquist added, “[One] statistic that isn’t really shown on the scoreboard is scoring chances or scoring opportunity. I’d rather a little interplay at the top of the box than a 35 yard shot from deep. You may not get a shot off, but at least you’re close [and] making the defense worry.”
On the other end of the pitch, a sound defense is integral to the success of a NESCAC soccer team. Repeatedly called the most competitive DIII conference in the nation, the league stands out as the speed of its games are faster and more physical. Amherst’s capabilities were comparable to that of other NESCAC teams, exposing weak spots in Bowdoin’s strategy.
“We need to be a lot more dynamic in the final third of the field,” said Head Coach Scott Wiercinski. “[But] our possession and problem solving in tight places has been really good this year, outpacing previous seasons.”
The team’s workouts are ball-centric, combining skill drills and endurance exercises. While the ultimate goal is to win the NESCAC tournament, the path to get there is composed by smaller, everyday achievements.
“[We’re] focused on getting better everyday,” said Niang. “It’s a short season [and we need] to make sure that every day we’re invested in practice and getting better for the next game.”
While Niang is looking toward the short term future, Stenquist is also concerned with the long term impact he and four other seniors will leave behind.
“We are hoping to leave the program with this sense of legacy that we had before us,” said Stenquist. “We’re not going to be Bowdoin soccer players our entire lives. There are guys before us that paved the way and we’re hoping to pass that knowledge on to the next.”
The team hopes and expects to rank in at least the top eight in the NESCAC in order to qualify for the championship tournament.
“Winning the NESCAC is [winning] three games,” said Niang. “It’s a matter of being disciplined, especially defensively. We’re definitely defensively sound and we’re just relentless.”
“Somebody’s going to be real worried when they see Bowdoin soccer come onto their [field],” Stenquist added.
The men’s soccer team will play at Wesleyan (1-2-0) tomorrow. The next home game is October 1 against Thomas College.