NCAA Division III soccer tournaments: Williams women draw Lesley in first round; former Berkshire County stars also making appearances in tournament
WILLIAMSTOWN — The field is set.
The Williams College women's soccer team is one of 64 teams that will begin play this weekend in the NCAA Division III tournament. The NESCAC regular-season and tournament champions will begin play this weekend, at home on Cole Field.
"We had the team in here. It's exciting regardless of whether you have an automatic bid or you're waiting for an at-large," Williams coach Michelyne Pinard said after the team watched the selection show in her Lasell Gym office. "The team is thrilled, excited to be playing in November, and we're excited about the challenge of our bracket."
The Ephs will be on Cole this weekend, welcoming Lesley, Stevens Tech and Brandeis for games on Saturday and Sunday.
In the last United Soccer Coaches Division III national poll, Williams was ranked fourth in the nation and No. 1 in New England.
The first game will feature Williams and New England Collegiate Conference champion Lesley (16-2-3). The second game has Empire Eight champion Stevens Tech (11-3-4) playing Brandeis (11-4-4), the No. 4 team in the University Athletic Association. That conference does not play a post-season tournament.
"All around, all 64 teams are pretty tough," said Pinard. "You used to have to wait until the round of 16 to have a game. No longer.
"It's a game right from the start."
None of the three teams in Williams' bracket have shown up on the Ephs' schedule in recent years. Lesley, in fact, is the only team with a six-degrees-of-Williams connection. Lesley beat Tufts 1-0 in overtime and lost to MIT, 5-2. Williams beat Tufts in the regular season and in the NESCAC tournament final, and also beat the Engineers in the regular season.
Lesley and Elms College battled to a scoreless draw in the NECC championship game, with the Lynx beating Elms 5-4 on penalty kicks.
It is the sixth conference title for Lesley and the weekend win marked the fifth time in six years that it had won the NECC championship.
Lenox's Tova Brown is a freshman midfielder for Lesley, and the former Millionaire player had no points in 11 games.
On the other side of the bracket in the Williamstown sectional, Stevens won the Empire Eight after eliminating Hartwick on penalty kicks. That match also ended 0-0. Stevens (11-3-4) was ranked 16th in the last Division III national poll and was the third-ranked team in the East Region.
Brandeis was unranked nationally, but the Judges (11-4-4) were fifth in New England. Denise Dallamora is the Judges' coach, and she is in her 38th season. Dallamora is the only coach Brandeis has ever had.
"It's fun for everyone. I hear that from our student-athletes that they really love to play teams that they don't normally get to see," the Williams coach said. "I think it's a fun, new challenge and an opportunity that presents itself in November that we don't get the rest of the year."
Williams' sectional is matched up on the 64-team bracket with a West Coast foursome hosted at Cal Lutheran. Cal Lutheran plays California-Santa Cruz, while Pacific Lutheran plays Whittier. The winner of that sectional would play the winner of the Williamstown sectional next weekend.
Williams is one of 13 New England schools participating in the NCAA D-III tournament. Five of the 13 are NESCAC schools.
Joining the Ephs in the field of 64 are at-large entries Connecticut College, Hamilton, Middlebury and Tufts.
Three other teams have Berkshire County connections.
Westfield State, the winner of the MASCAC tournament, has a quartet of former Wahconah players on the roster. Gianna Moncecchi is a sophomore defender, Ashley Zink is a freshman defender and Amelia Dougherty is a freshman forward, and all played in the championship game. Moncecchi and Zink are starters. Jocelyn Hill, a sophomore forward, is also a member of the team. Westfield will open at Messiah this week.
The Owls are coached by Todd Ditmar, whose father Art grew up in Pittsfield and pitched for the New York Yankees.
Roger Williams opens its tournament against The College of New Jersey. Ericca Broderick, a sophomore forward, has two goals and two assists in 17 games for RWU. She played at Monument Mountain.
Castleton University will open its tournament at MIT. Freshman defender Val McEachern plays for the Spartans. She's a Peru native who went to Wilbraham and Monson.
The NCAA Division III Final Four will be played Dec. 1-2 at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
Williams did not make it to the men's tournament, but Cam Powell's Springfield College men did.
Powell, a senior from Housatonic who played at Monument Mountain, will join his Springfield teammates up I-91 this weekend as the Pride will play Commonwealth Coast Conference champion Endicott in the second game of a doubleheader at Amherst College.
Amherst, an at-large pick, will host MASCAC champion Salem State in the first game.
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, and 413-496-6253.
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