Saturday, March 8, 2014
Thomas College rolled through the North Atlantic Conference men's soccer tournament. That may even be an understatement. The Terriers had a competitive game with Maine Maritime Academy -- which still ended in a 4-0 win -- and overpowered Green Mountain and Husson.
Now the Terriers will face their own dominating opponent. Williams College, ranked No. 9 in the country in the latest poll, hosts Thomas in an NCAA Division III first-round game at 11 a.m., Saturday.
Williams is 13-1-3 (the one loss is to Amherst) and ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Ephs are in the NCAA tournament for the 17th time in the last 20 seasons. Williams has scored just 29 goals, but enters with a supreme defense. No. 1 goalkeeper Than Finan has a 0.45 goals-against average and backup Peter Morrell is at 0.67.
Thomas also has a top-notch goalkeeper in Mikkail Crockwell (0.58 GAA). Crockwell's save percentage is .897, while Finan's is .896. Thomas coach Chris Parsons also believes the Terriers can keep pace in other areas.
"I think it's a good matchup, just the way that they play and the athletes that they have comparable to what we have here," Parsons said. "We're going to have to play one of our best games of the season."
Both teams have played Bates and Colby. Thomas was missing several key players in a 4-0 loss to Colby, while Williams defeated the Mules, 4-0. Thomas lost 1-0 to Bates, while Williams blanked the Bobcats, 2-0.
Unlike Thomas, Williams does not have an explosive scorer. User Kushaina leads the team with five goals and Mohammed Rashid has four. Nine players have taken between 12 and 47 shots.
For the Terriers, junior forward Michael Hand has scored 11 goals in 12 games, and is close to 100 percent after missing part of the year with a groin injury.
"One, having a goalkeeper like Mikkail is huge for us in the game of soccer, where anything can happen," Parsons said. "You can be outshot 40 to 1 and you can still win the game.
"And then having our scorer back. Michael was in the top 10 in the country scoring. In his first 10 games, I think he's had nine goals. He's missed seven games this season for us, but now having him back, it's huge, and he's feeling really good."
Parsons feels Thomas' outside midfielders will need to both play strong defense and be a key part of the attack.
"For us, our outside midfielders are really going to really have to have a good game for us, in order for us to have a chance," he said. "They attack with their outside backs, and if our outside midfielders are getting caught up the field and we're not getting back on defense, then we're going to have major issues with that.
"If those players are on on Saturday, we have a very good chance of winning that game. If they come out and they're not ready, and they're flat, it's going to be a long day."
Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243