The women’s and men’s soccer teams both won their season openers 3-0 against Babson College and the University of New England (UNE), respectively, on Wednesday. The two teams will start their NESCAC seasons with home games against Amherst—whose men’s team is ranked No. 1 and women’s team is ranked No. 19 nationally—on Saturday at noon.

While the two teams are coming off impressive 2015 campaigns, they are also facing similar obstacles replacing key seniors from last year’s teams.  The women’s team, which made the NESCAC championship game and won its first round game in the NCAA tournament last year, lost three of its top four goal scorers as well as All-American goalie and captain Bridget McCarthy ’16. The men’s team, which has won back-to-back NESCAC championships the last two years, graduated its top three goal scorers in addition to defensive captain and NESCAC Player of the Year Nabil Odulate ’16.

With the losses in personnel, the two teams are looking to their upperclassmen players to avoid any transitional difficulties.

“The good news is we have a lot of players back that have also been through those fires and can build on and grow from those experiences,” said men’s Head Coach Scott Wiercinski.

“We’re pretty confident in the returners and their ability to take advantage of the opportunities they’ve been given [the past couple of seasons] and see what we’ve got out there,” said women’s Head Coach Brianne Weaver.

For the women’s team, however, a lot of its early season success will rely on contributions from new players. The team has 10 first years on the roster and four of them—Morgen Gallagher ’20, Sophia Lemmer ’20, Emma Beane ’20 and Lizzie Sands ’20—started in the opener against Babson.

“We tend to use our depth and if we have depth coming out of the first year class, that’s always helpful and bodes well for the future,” said Weaver. “If someone is ready to play as a first year we want to get them on the field.”

In the Babson College game, the team got off to a quick start when Nikki Wilson ’18 intercepted a Babson pass near midfield, dribbled the ball up the field and scored just inside the 18 yard box. Julia Patterson ’19 added a goal seven minutes later off an assist from Evan Fencik ’17. The goals combined with Rachel Stout’s ’18 dominance in goal led to the 3-0 shutout win.

The Polar Bears will have to change their strategy for the Amherst game. The Purple and White’s possession-oriented attack is a big change of pace from Babson’s attack, which utilizes speed as it looks to send the ball over the top to create quick scoring opportunities.

“Amherst is always a good challenge. It’s almost a little rough playing them in our first [NESCAC] game because you kind of just get thrown in,” said Taylor Haist ’17. “Their coach focuses a lot on their technical skills—they’re possession oriented.”

“I think for a long time there was a fear of Amherst in our program,” said Weaver. “But we’ve worked on making sure and understanding that we’re right there [with them]. We have matched up well against them the past few seasons when we’ve come out to play.”

The Amherst men’s squad poses a different set of challenges as they will attempt to overpower the Polar Bears. The team is known to play a hyperphysical attacking style that bullies opposing teams in the box. Despite their position as the defending NESCAC champions, the Polar Bears are underdogs this weekend as Amherst is ranked No. 1 in the NSCAA Coaches Preseason Poll.

Although Bowdoin lost last year’s regular season contest, the Polar Bears, who pride themselves on maintaining their defensive order, were able to outlast Amherst two years ago in the NESCAC championship game and hope to do the same this weekend.

“Our defense has carried us the last couple of seasons, so every year I think our ability to defend is what really carries us forward,” said Wiercinski. “[Amherst] requires a defense to be super organized and super disciplined and we certainly hope we’re going to be that when we play on Saturday.”

As for completing a NESCAC three-peat, captain Cedric Charlier ’17 is looking to last year’s mindset for inspiration.

“I think it’s similar to last year when we won the year before that. We don’t dwell on the past. This is a new season, it’s a new team and our goal is to win a NESCAC championship as this team.”