The men’s soccer team finished as the first seed in the NESCAC and will host Connecticut College (Conn.) in the NESCAC tournament quarterfinals this Saturday. It is the first time Bowdoin secured the first seed in the tournament since 2010. The Polar Bears, who finished the season with a 11–1–3 (6–1–3 NESCAC) record, rounded out the season with a 2–1 win at home over Wesleyan University (8–4–3; 4–3–3 NESCAC) last Saturday and a scoreless draw at Tufts University (7–2–6; 3–2–5 NESCAC) on Tuesday.
In the win against Wesleyan, midfielder Tyler Huck ’26 scored the game-winning goal on a long cross from midfielder Julian Juantorena ’23 in the 82nd minute.
“We had the ball in our back, and I saw [Juantorena] was going to turn, so I made the run and he hit an absolutely perfect pass—50 or 60 yards—over the defenders. I got the ball and saw that the keeper had come out a bit, so I just tried to round the ball over him and, luckily enough, it went in,” Huck said.
The play was set up in part by a tactical note at halftime by Head Coach Scott Wiercinski.
“We had definitely been defending for a while, and [Wiercinski] at halftime had said that they were playing five in the back, so their wingbacks would normally be higher and that space in the diagonals beyond them was normally open. [We wanted to] almost overhit the passes and just hit that zone rather than trying to match the run perfectly,” Juantorena said. “[Huck] was running and I more aimed for the space than the actual run itself, and it worked out.”
Wesleyan scored its lone goal in the 31st minute to take a 1–0 lead, but Bowdoin responded with a goal of its own less than a minute later. Wiercinski noted that this response showed the resiliency of the team. The win over Wesleyan was Bowdoin’s third comeback victory of the season.
“I’m certainly glad we responded to that quickly. I think the longer a soccer game goes 1–0, the tenser the opponent gets, the tenser you get as you’re trying to attack [and] the spaces shrink,” Wiercinski said. “That’s the way you hope it goes as a coach, but it rarely goes exactly as you planned. But I think all season the team has really shown a mentality and a maturity with the way that we’ve dealt with the ups and downs of a 90-minute game. It doesn’t always go great, but when things do fail, they just charge on.”
Wesleyan’s goal ended a string of six clean sheets for the Polar Bears. Bowdoin finished the season with only five goals allowed in all fifteen of its matches, the best in the NESCAC. Furthermore, the team did not allow more than one goal in a single match all season.
Defender Dylan Reid ’22 believes team chemistry has been a big factor in the team’s defensive staunchness this season.
“I think it’s been a couple of years in the making. We started out having a good defense last year, most of the time only conceding one goal per game—if we did concede. We pretty much kept our same defense. We know each other pretty well, know what our weaknesses are, know what our strengths are and know when we need to help our players.”
Bowdoin will host eighth-seeded Conn., the defending Division III national champion, in the NESCAC tournament quarterfinals on Saturday.
The Polar Bears defeated Conn. 1–0 earlier this year. Reid and Juantorena both noted that Conn. will present problems as a possession-heavy team.
“We’re probably going to end up doing the same thing that we did—knowing when we want to press them and when not to,” Reid said. “Because they can pass around two or three numbers, but when we press with all of us, they’re not going to be able to deal with that. The key is just going to be a lot of communication on when to go and when not to, and then when we have the ball, looking to attack quickly because they like to get forward with a lot of numbers.”
Wiercinski believes the Polar Bears’ leadership and maturity will shine through as they head into the playoffs.
“There is no substitute for senior leadership and guys who’ve been through the fire, guys who have played 0–0 games in NESCAC playoff games, or 0–0 games against really talented teams that go to the Final Four. There’s just something different about the urgency and the intensity to understand that this moment makes a difference. It’s a 90-minute game, but these three seconds might be the difference in whether we win or lose,” Wiercinski said.