The men’s soccer team avenged a regular-season loss last Saturday by beating Tufts (8-5-2, 6-4-0 NESCAC) on penalty kicks on the road in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC Championship. The win means Bowdoin will meet top-seeded Amherst in the semifinals tomorrow.
After a scoreless first half, Bowdoin put in the first goal of Saturday’s game after a miscommunication in the Jumbos’ back line gave Cedric Charlier ’17 an open net. Matt Dias Costa ’17 added to the Bowdoin lead in the 80th minute after captain Zach Danssaert ’14 intercepted a Tufts pass and crossed the ball into the box, where Austin Downing ’17 headed it to Dias Costa for the goal.
Unfortunately for the Polar Bears, Tufts mounted a furious rally to score two goals in the final five minutes of regulation—one with only 37 seconds remaining—to force overtime. Despite having allowed these potentially demoralizing goals, Bowdoin kept its composure in the two subsequent overtimes and gave itself the opportunity to keep its season alive by forcing penalty kicks.
Goalie Noah Safian ’17 made two great saves which, paired with a Tufts misfire, was enough for the Polar Bears to win. Eric Goitia ’15, Dias Costa, and Andrew Jones ’16 made up for misses by captains Ben Brewster ’14 and Danssaert to award Bowdoin a 3-1 penalty kick victory.
Brewster, Bowdoin’s defensive anchor, admitted that the team let down its guard after going up two goals with five minutes left.
“Anytime you get up a goal or two you can fall in on yourself and you think you can sit in and win the game like that,” said Brewster. “To their credit, they took advantage and played some great balls in the box. They were playing well but we collapsed in the end.”
Head Coach Scott Wiercinski concurred with Brewster’s assessment.
“I think we kind of stopped playing,” he said. “We’ve done really well in recent weeks closing the game out with a lead. So I don’t know if it was that we were overconfident in thinking we could do that again or if we just thought the game was over.”
Despite his disappointment in the team letting its guard down, Wiercinski was proud of how his team gathered its wits after regulation.
“There were a lot of pieces we could point to and say, ‘Oh, its not our day,’ but we continued to fight through and we got the luck and good quality of play we needed,” said Wiercinski. “It obviously wasn’t the sequence we wanted, but it was a still a win and we get to play again this week.”
The team’s opponent this week, Amherst, will pose a substantial challenge for the Polar Bears. The Lord Jeffs shut Bowdoin out in the teams’ last meeting, and are undefeated this season. They are also No. 1 in the D-III rankings.
“They’re a big, athletic team,” said Brewster. “They put a ton of balls in the box that are difficult to defend because they have such big players.”
Despite the uphill challenge it is facing, the team is more confident than concerned and is feeding off of the hype that comes with such a big game.
“We match up well with them in that we have a pretty big team and can deal with their size,” said Brewster. “We have some smaller guys, too, that can pass the ball well. Maybe we’ll be looking to keep the ball on the ground instead of playing into their strength with long ball after long ball.”
Wiercinski hopes he can use such conservative passing as an advantage against the Jeffs.
“They’re a very aggressive team and we can use that to our benefit if they’re going to be too aggressive in a certain situation,” said Wiercinski. “Hopefully we’re prepared to counteract that.”
If the Polar Bears win, they will play the winner of Williams and Wesleyan the following day. Wiercinski, however, said he is not a fan of such a playoff format.
“The back-to-back format in college soccer is, in my view, a little bit ridiculous in terms of the demands it puts on our players,” he said.
Nonetheless, the team has previously played some of its best soccer in two-game weekends and is undefeated in second legs of back-to-back matches this season.
There will be no love lost between the two teams on Saturday.
“I’m pumped up,” said Brewster. “Another shot at Amherst—I hate those kids.”