Having only allowed in seven goals all season, the men’s soccer team was again anchored by its defense in its NESCAC Championship quarterfinal game last weekend.

“We really haven’t been letting in goals,” said defender Kiefer Solarte ’16.

So, when senior defender Nabil Odulate connected on a close-range shot from the left side in the twenty-fifth minute of Polar Bears’ contest against Tufts in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC Championship, the team was confident Odulate had propelled them into the semifinals. 

The confidence was well-placed: Odulate’s goal was the only of the match, and sixth-seeded Bowdoin upset third-seeded Tufts 1-0 on in Boston last Saturday to advance to a semifinal matchup against Connecticut College tomorrow.

The Tufts matchup, which was played on a muddy field after heavy rain in days prior, was actually the second of the week between the two teams; the first, played on Wednesday, October 28, ended in a 0-0 draw. Having gotten to know each other already, both teams arrived on Saturday playing with an intensity unseen in the Wednesday matchup.

Tufts came out of the game swinging, and had a good chance at the top of the box during the second minute of play. In fact, Tufts outshot Bowdoin 13-2 on the day, with six shots on goal for the Jumbos and two for the Polar Bears. 

Tufts put pressure on Bowdoin’s back line throughout the contest, but Bowdoin head coach Scott Wiercinski believes that Tufts actually had fewer quality chances on Saturday than on Wednesday.

“I thought they had a little bit more possession in the game on Saturday but they didn’t create as many clear cut, open scoring chances as a result,” he said. “That’s a product of our back line defending very well and then our midfield getting back.” 

Although stakes were raised for Saturday’s game, Wiercinski opted to stay with the personnel and tactics that got his team to the postseason. He was rewarded with strong defending and two key saves from goalkeeper Stevie Van Siclen ’18 after star Tufts midfielder Nathan Majumder was ejected when he earned his second yellow card early in the second half. 
Despite playing with only 10 men on the field from that point forward, Tufts kept up its pressure on the Bowdoin.

“Even though they had a man down you might not have noticed it, because they were playing with such aggression and emotion to get back into the game,” said Wiercinski.

The Polar Bears’ intensity in preventing the late charge by Tufts should serve them well when they take on Conn. College at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Championship host site of Middlebury. The team already faced Conn. this season, rallying from a goal behind to win 2-1 on October 24. The comeback was one of the high points of the regular season for Bowdoin.

“Despite going a goal down, we really came out with a huge amount of intensity and energy and continued to dominate the game and kept applying pressure,” said Odulate.

While Wiercinski believes that Conn. College is not as well-balanced as Tufts, he also said that the Camels’ front end is more mobile and dynamic. Senior Matthew Bitchell and the first-year duo of Chris Lockwood and Mark Leon lead the charge the Conn. up front, and they’re supported by midfielders Pat Devlin and Colin Patch. 

The matchup sets up a strong attack versus a staunch defense, and the winner will get the chance to play for the NESCAC title on Sunday against the winner of first-seeded Middlebury versus eighth-seeded Wesleyan. For Bowdoin, the weekend is an opportunity to bring home the NESCAC title as a six seed for the second straight season.

“Coming off a NESCAC tourney win from last year, the expectation has always been looming over us,” said Solarte. “That being said, I think we were underdogs throughout that whole tournament, and for the good part of this season. I would say that we’ve learned to deal with those expectations from being the champions last year, and we’ve learned to deal with them better throughout the season.”