All eyes were on the third-seeded men’s soccer team (12–1–5; 6–1–3 NESCAC) last weekend as it hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III Tournament at Pickard Field. Bowdoin defeated the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (11–5–6; USMMA) 3–1 on Saturday and then faced Vassar College (9–3–7) on Sunday. The Vassar game was deadlocked 1–1 after 110 minutes of play, but Bowdoin edged out Vassar 4–2 in penalty kicks to advance. Bowdoin will play SUNY Oneonta (15–2–3) in the third round of the tournament tomorrow. It is the second time in program history that Bowdoin will compete in the third round of the tournament, with the first time being in 2010.
Head Coach Scott Wiercinski noted his pride for the team’s performance last weekend.
“USMMA and Vassar are really good teams, and they pushed us in ways that we try to prepare for, but on game day, there are always wrinkles to accommodate,” Wiercinski said. “We wanted to be aggressive and play on the front foot. We were able to do that for the most part throughout the weekend.”
Sunday’s tie was reminiscent of the team’s NESCAC tournament elimination to Connecticut College, which also went to penalty kicks. Goalkeeper Michael Webber ’23, who stopped two penalty kicks from Vassar, believes that the similar experience in the Connecticut College game—and focusing on it in practice afterward—helped the team succeed against Vassar.
“We lost to Connecticut College two weeks before, and I think we all saw we needed some practice with [penalty kicks], so we spent the last week and a half getting ready for it,” Webber said. “We really had the energy coming out of overtime, and we came to the bench and said, ‘this is our game to win at this point.’”
The shootout was not the only obstacle the team had to overcome on Sunday. The constant rain and mud proved difficult for the players.
“I think the double weekend and weather did take a physical toll and changed the way the game was played Sunday,” captain Harry Cooper ’22 said. “But through full time, extra time and penalties, I think everyone was all in on finding a goal. We may have been a bit cold as well, but that’s good motivation to score and get back to the locker room.”
Support from the fans helped the team stay motivated and energetic.
“I think one of the coolest parts of the game was having 50 to 60 students and fans all lined up right next to the field, and there was good support and good energy from everyone there,” Webber said. “When you win, they get to come crash on the field with you, which is fun.”
None of the players had been in the NCAA Tournament before, which meant they had to overcome some nerves in the first match of the weekend against USMMA.
“I think one of the toughest factors was the build-up going into the weekend,” Cooper said. “The expectation of getting to host an NCAA game built a bit in the lead up to the weekend, and I had to concentrate on just playing another game. I think it ended up helping us because we were able to bring energy into what turned into back-to-back games.”
Webber added that the team became more confident as the weekend went on.
“The second half of the first game had significantly more energy than the first [half], and that energy came from acceptance,” Webber said. “You’re one down, and you don’t want the season to end today.… So what can you do to figure it out? We’ve done it before.… We’ve come back from being one down many times. Then, we scored three goals in the span of 25 minutes in the second half, which was exciting and definitely relieving.”
The Polar Bears are looking forward to competing again this weekend. If they defeat SUNY Oneonta on Saturday, they will play the fourth round of the tournament on Sunday.
“We are training this week so we’ll be sharp by the weekend,” Cooper said. “There’s definitely a good energy and mentality in the team right now, so we’re trying to concentrate on how we want to play to win.”
Wiercinski is confident that his team is ready to take on the challenge.
“The guys are working hard. Some are resting and recovering, but we will be ready to give [our opponents] everything that we have,” Wiercinski said.
Bowdoin will play SUNY Oneonta at Amherst College tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. in the third round of the tournament.