After a rocky start to the season, the men’s soccer team (9-3-2, 5-2-2 NESCAC) has hit its stride and is currently entering the postseason with the momentum of a 7-1-2 record in its last 10 matches. The team is in excellent form as it looks to the postseason, but the path it took to get to this point has been far from linear.
The team started the season 2-3, with a 0-2 NESCAC record after tough losses to Amherst and Wesleyan. Head Coach Scott Wiercinski admitted that for some, the season’s early results came as a disappointment.
“A lot of us had high expectations for our team,” Wiercinski said. “When you lose a few games you stack your results against those expectations instead of stacking your performance against your potential. Confidence … is always a fickle thing, and losing a few games early can challenge a [team’s] sense of purpose.”
Despite the adversity the team faced in the beginning of the season, the team has come a long way from its early season frustrations.
Captain Jake Stenquist ’19 described a series of turning points throughout the season which helped shock the team out of its early slump. After a tough loss to Wesleyan, the team gathered to watch the game tape.
“It was a turning point … to run the film and see personal battle after personal battle where [Wesleyan] was winning and they were working harder than us,” Stenquist said.
This realization prompted a change in attitude that helped the teamchanges its fortunes. In the next game against Middlebury, the team did not execute impressive plays or break program records, but it worked hard throughout the game.
Stenquist admitted that part of him expected the team’s slow start to the season, alluding to their challenging early-season schedule and the time it took for the squad, which includes 11 first years, to acclimate to each other and to their style of play.
Asked to characterize the team in one word, Stenquist and Wiercinski both responded with “resilient.”
“Resilience has bought us enough time to work out some of the wrinkles in our relationships, routine and performance,” Wiercinski said. “Now we feel like we’re clicking on a lot of different cylinders … we’re a really comprehensive team.”
Regardless of the path the season has taken up to now, Wiercinski never lost faith in his team.
“We always knew we had the talent, the personality, the character and the players to [turn our season around], and are thankful that it did come to fruition.”
The team’s recent success has helped foster a self-perpetuating environment of improvement.
“Our guys are growing in confidence and growing in understanding with themselves, with the way we want to play and with each other,” said Wiercinski. “It’s been a positive feedback system that [they] have been doing well in.”
This feedback loop has yielded a remarkable turnaround. The team finished the regular season 9-4-2 (5-3-2 NESCAC), averaging 1.87 goals per game and conceding on average 0.9 goals per game. The team’s season boasted an upset victory over Connecticut College (12-1-2, 7-1-2 NESCAC) and ties against Hamilton (8-6-1, 4-5-1 NESCAC) and Williams (8-5-2, 4-4-2 NESCAC).
“We’re playing our best soccer at the end of the season,” Wiercinski said. “In that way, we’ve aligned well with what’s important—it doesn’t matter how good you are in September if you’re not good at the end of October.”
Stenquist was clear in his postseason ambitions: “I think everyone’s got the same idea—NESCAC championship.”
The road toward that goal starts this weekend. Saturday, the team will travel to Amherst for the NESCAC quarterfinal. As Stenquist pointed out, Bowdoin has never beaten Amherst in the past four years, but there’s no time like the present. The team will be looking to avenge last season’s semifinal exit from the tournament at the hands of Middlebury.
Wiercinski also has very clear goals for the team this postseason, but these goals don’t revolve around securing specified results or winning specific trophies.
“My expectation is that we’re going to play really well against a really good team … and we know that we’ll be capable of winning. We expect to be competitive with everybody,” said Wiercinski.
Wiercinski’s postseason ethos is consistent with what he has preached all season: confidence in the ability of his team and an unshakeable belief that on game day, they can beat anyone.