Cardinals Gain NCAA Entry At-Large, to Host St. Joseph's (Me.) in Opening Round Sat., Nov. 14
With their 11-1-4 record in 2009, the Cardinals gained entry to the NCAA playoffs as an at-large team along with NESCAC rivals Bowdoin and Amherst. Wesleyan, as one of the top seeds in the New England regional, will serve as a host site for first- and second-round action. The Cardinals take on the Monks of St. Joseph's College (Me.), winners of the GNAC, in the first game Sat., Nov. 14 followed by a game between the NEWMAC champ, Babson, and TCCC winner, WNEC. The first-round winners meet Sun., Nov. 15 for a trip to the sectionals in the round of 16.
In NESCAC tournament play, Wesleyan scored three goals in a 10-minute span during the first half as the Cardinals took control of their first-round NESCAC matchup vs. Colby Sun., Nov. 1 and rolled to a 5-0 victory. As a result, Wesleyan got to host the tournament Final Four Sat. & Sun., Nov. 7-8. The Cardinals played sixth-seeded Middlebury, which upset Amherst, 2-1, in its first-round game, while Williams and Bowdoin squared off it the other semi-final. The result was a pair of 2-0 victories for the Panthers and Ephs, who met in the championship game with Williams winning, 2-1 in overtime for an automatic berth to the NCAAs.
In the semi-final between Wesleyan and Middlebury, both teams created some good scoring opportunities but it wasn't until the 79th minute that the Panthers converted a corner kick into a 1-0 lead with a header. Three minutes later a good hustle play by the Panthers brought about an insurance goal as they are just the second team this season to score multiple goals against the daunting Cardinal defense. Middlebury's opening goal ended the Cardinals streak of scoreless minutes at 583:37 over a seven-game span, all but 12:27 of it belonging to keeper Adam Purdy '13.
It was Geoff Zartarian '11 broke the ice vs. Colby by converting a corner kick from Ian Waldron '13 into his third goal of the year in the game's 26th minute. Five minutes later, Walter Rodriguez '13 made it 2-0 with the first of his career after receiving a pass from Nick Whipple '10. Rodriguez went on to add a second goal on a penalty kick in the 72nd minute after Noah Schlesinger '13 was taken down in the box. Schlesinger had scored the Cards' third goal in the 36th minute, making good on a pass from Jacob Levkowicz '12 for his fourth goal this season. The final goal in the 81st minute was a header by Will Mithoefer '12, assisted by Alec Basseda '13.
In net, Adam Purdy '13 made one save in 77 1/2 minutes. Harrison Lewin '12 and and Cabell Maddux '13 both had defensive saves for the Cardinals on balls that would have been goals if not for their efforts. Backup keeper Nigel Stacey '11 also had a save as the squad ran its school-record shutout figure to 11.
Wesleyan earned its top-seed honor Fri., Oct. 30 after Asante Brooks '10 and Schlesinger accounted for the goals in the first half, and Purdy came up with six saves, each in dramatic fashion, as the team wrapped up its first undefeated regular season (10-0-4) since the 1940 squad went 7-0-1 behind a 2-0 victory over Conn. College. Combined with Middlebury's upset victory over Williams, the triumph gave Wesleyan the top seed in the NESCAC Tournament.
At Conn. College, Wesleyan took the first seven shots of the contest with Brooks pushing a shot past the Camel keeper from the left side of the box in the 16th minute after a great feed from Zartarian to make it 1-0. Wesleyan's eighth and final shot of the frame came from Schlesinger, who received a rifle pass in the middle of the box from Rory O'Neill '13, trapped, turned and fired a bullet of his own into the Conn net in the 30th minute. Purdy was called upon to make his first save midway through the frame, robbing a Conn attacker with a diving stop. Later he thwarted another Camel bid with two saves from point-blank range. Conn threatened again on several occasions in the second half, either to be stopped by Purdy with two more saves, or narrowly miss the net. It was the ninth shutout of the year for Purdy.
While the team, ranked first in New England and fouth nationally through the poll of Nov. 3, was closing out the regular season in fine form, two Cardinals received regional honors from College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) as Jory Kahan '10 was named first team while Keisuke Yamashita '10 made the second team of the CoSIDA/ESPN the Magazine District I Academic All-America squad. As a first-teamer, Kahan will move on to the national ballot with a chance to be selected to one of three national All-America squads.