Wheaton chases eighth NEWMAC Tournament crown, heads into semis
NORTON, MA- The second-seeded Wheaton College men's soccer team heads into the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament semifinals for the 10th straight season this weekend, as the Lyons chase their eighth league tournament crown and ninth NCAA Tournament berth. Babson College will be the site of Saturday's semifinals and Sunday's final, with Wheaton squaring off against sixth-seeded Clark University on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The Lyons, who eliminated the Cougars during the first round of the 2008 NEWMAC Tournament, enter the weekend 17-3-1 overall and tied for 18th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's (NSCAA) national poll, as well as third in the New England rankings. Top-seeded Babson and number-four Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) play in Saturday's 10:30 a.m. semifinal, with the championship game taking place on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
Wheaton posted a 5-1 mark during NEWMAC action, falling by a 1-0 count to Babson for its only loss and downing Clark by the same score, before knocking off number-seven Springfield College, 2-1 during the first round of the league tournament on Wednesday. Six of the seven contests the Blue and White has played against conference teams this season have been decided by one goal.
In qualifying for their 11th semifinal round in the NEWMAC's 12-year history, the Lyons reached the 10-win plateau for the 18th straight season and are tied for fourth in program history in wins. With its victory over Springfield, Wheaton has yielded just five goals in the past 11 games and is 7-1-1 in its past nine league postseason contests. While recording an 18-4-1 all-time mark during conference tournament action, the Lyons have defeated Clark all three times they have met in the postseason.
Anchoring the fifth-best defense in New England has been junior keeper Cole Davidson (Needham, MA/Salisbury School), a tri-captain who is tied for third in program history with eight shutouts this year and is tied for sixth in wins, having gone 13-3-1 with a 0.64 goals against average and an .825 save percentage. Wheaton has yielded one goal or fewer in 15 of Davidson's 17 appearances.
Five defenders have seen ample playing time in the backfield, as junior David Winrow (South Weymouth, MA/Weymouth) and freshman David Turina (North Yarmouth, ME/Northfield Mount Hermon School) are two of only three Lyons who have started all 21 games. Each of junior tri-captain David Ferriero's (Medway, MA/Medway) 18 appearances has been a start, freshman Howard Manly (Ayer, MA/Lawrence Academy) has started 16 of his 19 games, and sophomore Matt Flaherty (Westlake Village, CA/Worcester Academy) has appeared 17 times, drawing eight starts.
Junior tri-captain Yuri Moreira (Marlboro, MA/Northfield Mount Hermon School) leads the NEWMAC in scoring, having netted 16 goals, among them seven winners. Classmate Josh Solomon (Acton, MA/Acton-Boxboro Regional) provides Wheaton with another dangerous striker, having recorded seven goals and five assists, and freshman Max Swanson (Lexington, MA/Lexington) is third on the squad with four goals. Twenty two of the 28 players who have appeared have at least one point.
Junior Kyle Sye (Acton, MA/Acton-Boxboro Regional) and sophomore Chris Thomas (Cumberland, ME/Phillips Academy) have started 21 and 20 games, respectively, in the midfield for a team that boast the NEWMAC's top offensive and defensive numbers, while freshman Cecil Jeffrey (Framingham, MA/Rivers School) has made an immediate impact with a team-high-tying five assists and a pair of goals, including the winner against Springfield.