Tuesday September 4, 2012

WILLIAMSTOWN -- There are players from 10 different states and three foreign countries on the 2012 Williams College men's soccer team. But only two of them played in the same league -- and they are positional rivals.

Senior Than Finan from Williamstown led Mount Greylock to a state Division II soccer championship in 2008, while sophomore Andrew Bravo from Lenox led the Millionaires to the state title game two years later.

Now, they are both part of Eph coach Mike Russo's goaltending group. Finan and junior Peter Morrell are battling for the starting job while Bravo learns his trade and plays on the JV squad.

"[Bravo's] freshman year, I heard about eight times about the last [Berkshire County] team to beat Mount Greylock, and it was Lenox," Finan said with a laugh. "He wouldn't stop talking about it. The last game I lost at Greylock was to Lenox.

"It's been a lot of fun. Having locals around is nice. Having someone who grew up in Berkshire County and played Berkshire County soccer, kind of coming from the same background and now I get to train with him every day."

In their high school senior seasons, both Finan and Bravo led their teams to state championship games. The Mounties beat Masconomet Regional 3-2 for the state D-II title in 2008. Finan had shut out the previous three teams he faced, including beating South Hadley 1-0 in the title game.

Bravo's Millionaires fell to Dover-Sherborn 2-0 in the state Division III title game. Like Finan, Bravo backstopped Lenox to the title game with three consecutive shutouts.


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One of them was a 1-0 win over Gateway that the Millionaires won 3-2 on penalty kicks.

Bravo said, and Finan concurred, that while they were both familiar with the other goalkeeper, they really didn't know each other well until Bravo arrived here last year.

"We knew of each other. I don't know that we ever went head-to-head. I floated [between varsity and junior varsity] in his senior year when they won states," Bravo said.

A first year in college is always somewhat trying, whether you're a soccer player, a biology or a theatre major. That was certainly the case when Bravo made the move from Lenox to Williamstown. Having someone like Finan there was a big help.

"It was definitely an interesting experience because we had relatively similar high school experiences for soccer," said Bravo. "I think that definitely helped because I could follow in his footsteps and take after his lead."

It is rare for a freshman at Williams to step into the goal for the varsity. That task was more difficult for Bravo because Finan and Morrell were in front of him.

Finan won the starting goalkeeper nod midway through the season after making six saves in a 2-2 draw against Little Three rival Amherst on Oct. 9. From that point, the former Mountie keeper backstopped the Ephs to a 4-2-1 record and at one point had a 439-minute shutout streak.

"We're hoping" one of the regular goalies takes over, said Russo. "We think it's pretty close now. Peter, two years ago, was the better of the two. Last year, Than was the better of the two. Now, it's who wants it."

Russo said Bravo isn't ready to challenge either varsity keeper -- yet.

"He's done well. He's made a lot of strides," said Russo. "He's still got a ways to go. I think Berkshire County is not a high level, so I think he needs a little more grooming. He's working hard."

That's something Finan first noticed when he arrived on the Williams campus as well.

"There's definitely a big adjustment period. I went through the same thing freshman year," said Finan of what Bravo has had to deal with. "It's a bigger, faster, stronger game. Pete and I both had a couple of years to adjust, so we've definitely been helping him get settled in. We give him a hard time every now and then to keep him in line."

To reach Howard Herman:

hherman@berkshireeagle.com,

or (413) 496-6253.

On Twitter: @howardherman