|All-out effort from Jaimie Cappucci '14 and the rest of the Bates women's soccer team can produce a win over Amherst in the NESCAC semifinals on Saturday.|
LEWISTON, Maine -- It's the eighth seed playing on the second seed's home turf, so surely the Bates women's soccer team would be the underdog in this Saturday's NESCAC Championship semifinal game at Amherst, against the host Lord Jeffs. But that's probably just the way the Bobcats would have it. They likely wouldn't be uncomfortable going into overtime once more, either.
Saturday's takedown of No. 1 seed Tufts was the sixth time this season Bates has played past regulation time. But it was only the second of those six instances that the Bobcats avoided losing. The other came on Sept. 12, when Bates and Amherst, then ranked No. 20 in Division III, played to a scoreless tie through two overtime periods. Bates outshot Amherst 20-18 in that game, which came the day after both teams had played other NESCAC opponents, and Bates probably had a greater quality and quantity of scoring chances as well.
That game may have been the first sign of a pattern for Bates: that it's a team that rises to its opponent, particularly defensively. Against nationally ranked opponents, Bates is 1-0-1 with the Amherst tie and a 2-1 win over then No. 9 Williams. Saturday's Tufts game is the latest example.
It's somewhat of a strange year for the conference. Tufts, the tournament's top seed, was (and still is) ranked only No. 8 in New England by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Amherst (7-6-2) the second seed, doesn't appear in the New England rankings -- and nor does Bates (6-7-2), which incidentally has nearly an identical overall record with the Jeffs.
It all adds up to opportunity for the Bobcats: the chance to reach the conference championship game for the third time in team history. The Bobcats are 2-1 all-time in NESCAC semifinal play: a 1-0 win over Bowdoin in 2003, a 1-0 win over Bowdoin in 2005 and a 3-0 loss to Amherst in 2006.
Bates will need to come up with a similarly stout and hard-nosed defensive effort against the Jeffs as in the Sept. 12 game, and they'll go a long way toward that if they can bottle up first year forward Amanda Brisco and senior forward Jackie Hirsch, who together have accounted for almost half of Amherst’s scoring this fall. And a balanced and deep offensive attack (four players on the team -- Tina Tobin, Alix Vandeventer, Jaimie Cappucci and Courtney Talcott -- have scored between three and four goals) needs to be ready to pounce on its chances to test Amherst goalie Allie Horwitz.