BABSON PARK, MA- The second-seeded Wheaton College men's soccer team narrowly fell to number-one Babson College, 2-1 on Sunday in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament title game on Hartwell-Rogers Field. It marked the third time in the last four years the teams met for the championship.
The Lyons, who are tied for 18th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's (NSCAA) national poll and sit third in the New England rankings, slipped to 18-4-1, as each of their losses has been by a single goal. Wheaton will now await its postseason fate and find out on Monday whether it earns an at-large berth into its eighth NCAA Tournament in 10 years. The Beavers, who are seventh in the region, improved to 15-5-1 in defending their league tournament crown and automatically qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Wheaton and Babson have now combined to win 11 of the 12 titles in NEWMAC Tournament history.
After making a team save during the first half, freshman back Howard Manly (Ayer, MA/Lawrence Academy) tallied his first career goal in the second stanza, putting the visitors on top in the 53rd minute. Junior keeper Cole Davidson (Needham, MA/Salisbury School) made four saves, as Wheaton held advantages of 24-12 in shots and 7-2 in corner kicks.
Senior Dan Fogarty (Brookline, NH/Hollis Brookline) assisted both of Babson's tallies, as junior Dan Hixon (Foxboro, MA/Foxboro) and sophomore Jimmy Stento (Needham, MA/Needham) scored in the 67th and 77th minutes, respectively. Sophomore keeper Peter Crowley (Lexington, MA/Brooks School) made five stops between the Beaver pipes.
Wheaton took the second-half lead following a corner kick, as Manly rushed on to a loose ball in the box and put the Lyons on top at 52:14. Davidson came up big a couple minutes later, knocking down a Fogarty cross and covering a rolling ball. In the 66th minute, Davidson dove toward the upper left-hand corner to deny sophomore Billy Nickerson (Middleton, MA/Pingree School), but Hixon headed home Fogarty's ensuing corner kick at 66:04. Just 10:04 later, Stento slid to knock in Fogarty's cross from the left side.
The Lyons had a pair of chances late, with the best one coming off the head of junior Yuri Moreira (Marlboro, MA/Northfield Mount Hermon School) with nine minutes to go, but his redirection of a long free kick barely missed the right post. A final entry pass with 30 seconds left landed in the hands of Crowley.
Babson had a pair of opportunities in the opening minutes of the game, as Nickerson's initial eighth-minute shot was blocked before his second try was denied point-blank by Davidson. A dangerous Beaver cross through the goal mouth in the 19th minute went untouched, leading to a Lyon breakout. However, Moreira's shot after rushing down field was blocked, and classmate Josh Solomon's (Acton, MA/Acton-Boxboro Regional) follow-up attempt drifted high.
After yielding three of the first five shots, Wheaton took eight of the next nine, but Babson freshman Ayo Iwuagwu (Lagos, Nigeria/Brooks School) had a golden chance late in the first period. His shot with 1:04 left was on an open net, but Manly cleared the ball out near the right post. The Beavers collected the rebound but had their second try blocked. Wheaton held a 10-6 advantage in shots at the break.