Men's Soccer Sets Sight on NESCAC Quarterfinal Matchup Against Bates

MEDFORD, Mass. – The Tufts University men's soccer team will enter the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament as the number one overall seed for the first time since the 2014 season. The Jumbos finished the regular season with a record of 7-1-2 in conference play and 12-1-2 overall. This will be the sixth consecutive year in which they host a conference quarterfinal.

With a 0-0 tie against Bowdoin on Tuesday, Tufts held onto their claim to first place in NESCAC.

"Coming through a NESCAC season plus the strong out of league opponents we schedule makes our guys prepared to be challenged every time they step on the field," Head Coach Josh Shapiro said.  "Our guys are used to being challenged, tactically, physically, and mentally by being in close competitive games."

The Jumbos have seen plenty of success on the national stage in recent years, winning two of the previous three Division III national championships, but the NESCAC tournament has not been their friend.

Co-captains Conor Coleman and Sterling Weatherbie lead a focused group into the NESCAC Tournament.

One would need to go back to 2012 to find the most recent game that Tufts won in the NESCAC tournament, when they defeated Bowdoin 3-0 in a quarterfinal matchup. The past two years, the Jumbos fell to Bowdoin in the quarterfinals and the year before that, it was Connecticut College that ended Tufts NESCAC championship hopes.

This year they won't see either of those teams in the first round. The Jumbos will be playing Bates this Saturday at 2:30.

The Bates Bobcats finished the regular season with an 8-5-2 overall record, while going 3-5-2 in NESCAC play. They are currently riding a three-game winning streak where they have outscored opponents 9-0. The most recent win, 1-0 over Colby in double overtime on Wednesday, gave the Bobcats the eight seed and their first berth in the conference tournament since 2008.

Bates has scored 26 goals in 15 games this season, while averaging 1.01 goals against per game. They are led by senior forward Nate Merchant who has 18 points from six goals and six assists. Their goalkeeper, Robbie Montanaro, has started 14 games and made 79 saves while allowing 16 goals.

The Jumbos and Bobcats faced off earlier this season at Bates in a game where Tufts came out on top, 1-0. It was tightly contested and remained scoreless until the 85th minute. Kevin Halliday took a corner kick for Tufts and the ball ended up at the feet of Travis Van Brewer. He was able to sneak it by the keeper for the game-winner.

The Jumbos outshot the Bobcats 23-12 and had eight corner kicks to their three. There were 20 total fouls called in the game as well as four yellow cards handed out. It will be something to keep an eye on to see if that chippy play carries over to this quarterfinal contest.

In their 15 games so far this season, Tufts has scored 32 goals. Some offensive highlights from the year include a 10-0 win over Mount St. Vincent, and two 4-0 victories over Plymouth State and Middlebury. In those three games, the Jumbos outshot their competition 52 to 8.

On the defensive side of the ball, Tufts has only allowed one goal all season long. It came in their lone loss, 1-0 at Amherst. Even in that game they outshot their opponent 22 to 9. The goal came on a deflection off of a defensive player so technically, the Jumbo backline has never truly been beat.

In their 2016 campaign, over a third of the team's goals were scored by the same player. This year, it has been much more of a team-oriented attack with the most goals by a single player being five.

That player is senior Dexter Eichhorst. He has come off the bench in the majority of games, only starting two of 15, but once he's in, he makes the most of his chances. Eichhorst has scored five goals on 14 shots, for the best goals per shot percentage on the team. He scored twice in a 10-0 win over Mount St. Vincent and had the game-winner against Keene State.

Sophomore Gavin Tasker leads the team with 11 points off of four goals and three assists. He is one of three Jumbos to start all 15 games so far. Tasker scored the first goal of the season in Tufts' opening game against Babson. The goal came in the first minute of overtime.

Sophomore Zach Lane and freshman Van Brewer both have three goals apiece. Lane had the game-winner in a 1-0 win over Williams. Van Brewer scored on a penalty kick against Mount St. Vincent and had the lone goal of the game in the 1-0 over Bates.

Sophomore Zachary Trevorrow leads the team with four assists. With two goals as well he has totaled eight points on the season.

Co-captains senior Conor Coleman and junior Sterling Weatherbie along with senior Matt Zinner have played the majority of minutes on a defensive unit that has only allowed one goal, which comes out to the top average in NESCAC at 0.06 goals against per game, almost seven times better than the second best mark.

Keepers Bruce Johnson and Conner Mieth have been basically lights out. Johnson has started nine games and allowed zero goals while making 21 saves. Mieth has gotten the start in six games and only allowed one goal with 11 saves.

"The things we need to continue to do over the next week and hopefully month is to continue to get better," Shapiro said. "We need to work hard to push each other every day in training to get better.  We need to pull for each other and support our teammates from the field or the sideline.  We also need to take care of our business off the field so we are able to focus on soccer when it is time to focus on soccer."

> NESCAC Men's Soccer Championship Seeding Release

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Written by Curtis Stoychoff, Athletic Communications Intern