Men's Soccer Headed To NESCAC Weekend-Watch Live!

November 1, 2007

Middlebury will challenge for the NESCAC Championship they weekend as they travel to Amherst for the final rounds of the 2007 NESCAC Men's Soccer Championship at Gooding Field in Amherst, Mass. The action begins on Saturday, Nov. 3 with second-seed Middlebury facing third-seed and defending NESCAC Men's Soccer Champion Williams in the first semifinal at 11:00 a.m., and will be followed by number-one Amherst taking on fifth-seed Bowdoin at 1:30 p.m. The 2007 NESCAC Men's Soccer Championship concludes on Sunday, Nov. 4 with the final match getting underway at 12:00 p.m.

Amherst's (13-1-0, 8-1-0 NESCAC) 1-0 win at NESCAC rival Williams last Saturday not only gave the Lord Jeffs the top spot in the NESCAC standings, the highest finish for the team in program history, but also guaranteed the Jeffs an appearance in the semifinals for the third consecutive year. Amherst finished tied atop the NESCAC standings with Middlebury, however a 3-1 win by the Lord Jeffs in Amherst on Oct. 6 gave them the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Panthers for the number one seed. Amherst rolled to 11-straight victories to start the season before faltering on Oct. 20 to Wesleyan, falling 2-1 for the only loss of the season. Last Saturday's 1-0 win at Williams was the seventh shutout of the season for Amherst, which holds one of the top defenses in the conference with a goals against average of 0.71. Junior goalkeeper Jeff Grover (Framingham, Mass.) has been solid in net for the Jeffs once again this season, boasting a 0.77 goals against average and .820 save percentage while recording an 11-1-0 record and four shutouts. As impressive as the defense has been this fall for Amherst - having only allowed more than one goal on two occasions this season - the offense has been equally impressive, scoring a league-leading 2.71 goals per game, a full goal higher than last season's average. Leading a balanced offensive attack for the Jeffs are senior forward Taylor Downs (Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.) and junior forward Jake Duker (Newton, Mass.). The senior co-captain Downs has started every game for Amherst this year and leads his club in scoring with six goals and four assists for 16 points, while Duker follows closely in second with six goals and three assists through 10 appearances.

Looking to derail Amherst's title hopes will be fifth-seeded Bowdoin (10-4-1, 4-4-1 NESCAC). The Polar Bears extracted some revenge in the first round by repaying Wesleyan for a 3-2 overtime loss on the final day of the regular season with a 2-0 victory over Wesleyan in Middletown on Sunday. Freshman midfielder Ben Denton-Schneider (San Rafael, Calif.) propelled Bowdoin into the semifinals for the first time since 2004 by tallying both goals in the second half of the match, doubling his goal total for the season in the process. The Polar Bears head into the weekend having won four of their last five games, however three of Bowdoin's four losses this season have come against the other three semifinal teams. Saturday's match will pit Bowdoin against Amherst, which took the lone contest between the two clubs on Sept. 29 by a 3-0 score, for the fourth time in championship history. The Polar Bears hold a 2-1 advantage over the Jeffs in the playoffs, as each contest has been decided by a single goal. Senior forward Nick Figueiredo (Wilmington, Mass.) leads Bowdoin in scoring for the second consecutive year, tallying nine goals and adding in 11 assists for a NESCAC-best 29 points through 15 games. Figueiredo, who became the all-time goal-scoring leader at Bowdoin during a 3-0 win over Babson on Oct. 21 with 33 career goals, hopes to guide his team to only their second final appearance in championship history, after the Polar Bears were denied in their previous shot at the NESCAC title in 2003 by a 1-0 setback to Williams.

Before Amherst and Bowdoin tangle on Saturday, second-seeded Middlebury (13-2-0, 8-1-0 NESCAC) will take on third-seeded Williams (10-4-1, 6-3-0 NESCAC) in a rematch of the 2006 NESCAC Men's Soccer Championship game that had to be settled via penalty kicks. The Panthers come into Saturday's showdown with the Ephs having only lost two outings so far this season, a 3-1 setback at Amherst on Oct. 6 and a 2-1 double-overtime disappointment at Keene St. on Oct. 23. Middlebury reached the semifinals for the eighth consecutive fall with a 3-0 victory over Connecticut College during the first round on Sunday. The Panthers have stonewalled their opponents this season, recording 11 shutouts and a league-best goals against average of 0.46 through 15 games. Junior goalkeeper Brian Bush (Madison, Wis.) has been the backbone of the Middlebury defense, making 12 starts and posting a 10-1-0 record with seven shutouts so far this fall. Bush leads the conference in multiple statistical categories, owning a goals against average of 0.46 and a save percentage of .912 as he has allowed only five goals on 52 shots. Up front, junior Casey Ftorek (Wolfeboro, N.H.) paces a Middlebury offense that is second only to Amherst in goals scored. Ftorek has scored a league-leading 11 goals through 15 games, scoring five goals and three assists over the last six games.

Williams heads into the weekend with more than just the defense of its title on the line. The Ephs, who boast an impressive .857 winning percentage all-time in playoff games, have won a record five NESCAC championships over the past seven years and have reached the final match all but once in the history of the tournament. The Ephs may get the rare opportunity in this year's championship to face the only three conference teams to hand them a loss this season. During Sunday's first round, Williams jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead and then had to hold off a second-half surge from Trinity before coming away with a 4-2 victory, a bit of redemption for the Ephs after falling to the Bantams 2-0 on Sept. 29. The other two losses Williams suffered in league action came against both Middlebury and Amherst by 1-0 scores on Oct. 13 and Oct. 27, respectively. The Ephs have faced the Panthers a total of five times over the last seven tournaments, with four meetings coming in the championship game, and own a 3-1-1 record over Middlebury with a shootout victory. Scoring has come from all over the field this season for Williams, as three different players are tied for the team lead in goals with four and a total of nine different individuals have tallied so far in 2007.

--courtesy NESCAC--