Sports

Bruno to grapple with Columbia in soccer conference opener

Bears look to extend shutout streak to four straight games against Lions' multifaceted attack

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, October 3, 2014

Co-captain Daniel Taylor ’15 launches a free kick. Taylor and the midfield will look to help out on both ends of the field to take down Columbia.

The seven-game tournament constituting Ivy League play begins this weekend for the men’s soccer team, as the squad hosts Columbia.

In their faceoff with the Lions, the Bears (2-3-3) will look to their strong defense — which hasn’t allowed a goal in its last 345 minutes of play — to seal the deal against an opposing offense that has shown flashes of potency as well as dormancy in 2014.

The Lions (3-3-0) have had an up-and-down season thus far — they have failed to find the back of the net in two games, while scoring two or more goals in the other four games. Most recently, the team dropped a game by a 2-0 tally to Iona College (4-3-2).

After that disappointing outcome, Columbia will be looking to get back on track against Brown, especially since this will mark the team’s first game of conference play. Because the Ivy League does not have its own postseason tournament, whichever team tops the standings at the end of the regular season advances directly to the NCAA tournament.

“It’s a new season when Ivy League games start coming around,” said starting center back Gabe Welp ’18. “Every game is tough and anything can happen, so we don’t want to dig ourselves into a hole early in the season.”

Only twice in the history of the Ivy League has the first place team finished with more than one loss — Dartmouth claimed the league title in 1964 with a 5-2-0 record, and the Bears won it with the same record in 1975.

Assuming the conference will not have a two-loss champion for the first time in almost 40 years, half of the Ivy teams will be on the brink of elimination from championship contention after this weekend. To stay in the running, Columbia will rely on its young talent, as it has so far this season.

Attacking midfielder Francisco Agrest and forward Arthur Bosua, two of the team’s key players, are both first-years. Bosua is the reigning Ivy Rookie of the Week, after scoring a game-clinching goal against Fordham University (3-5-1). Agrest is the Lions’ leading goal scorer with three on the season.

Sophomore Rhys Williams has also made significant contributions to the squad, despite being an underclassman. The defender has tallied two goals and an assist: impressive stats for a wing back. Williams leads the team in shots and shots on goal, indicating he has freedom to roam up the field into attacking positions. The Bears will have to monitor Williams closely, especially on corner kicks, where he takes a lot of his cracks at goal.

But the Lions are not the only team with first-year firepower. Welp, James Myall ’18, Nico Lozada ’18, Quinn English ’18 and Louis Zingas ’18 have all either started or been one of the first players off the bench in most of the games this season for Bruno.

“We’re all very lucky to have the opportunity to step into the team and play right away,” Welp said.

The defender acknowledged the steep learning curve transitioning from high school to college soccer, but added that after a few weeks of practice and games, the first-years had all been properly acclimated to the new type of soccer.

Welp has become the centerpiece of the Bears’ backline. He often acts as a last defender, dropping in slightly behind Jameson Lochhead ’16 or Mike Leone ’17 and ensuring the opposing forwards do not make any runs in behind the defense. He has shown an ability to clear the ball with either foot and has quickly adapted to the fast-paced action.

Welp’s partner in the back has oscillated between Lochhead and Leone, two players with starkly different styles of play. Lochhead is a vertical powerhouse, demonstrating a knack for winning aerial battles. Leone, who is six inches shorter than 6-foot-3-inch Lochhead, is slightly quicker and plays good balls out of the back.

“I like playing with both of them,” Welp said. “They’re both really talented players for different reasons, and it’s really good to play with either one.”

Whichever center back starts alongside Welp in Saturday’s showdown with the Lions, the backline as a whole should feel confident in its ability to play 90 minutes of lockdown soccer. After three straight double-overtime scoreless draws, the Bears will be looking to score early and keep Williams and Co. off the board at 7 p.m. Saturday on Stevenson Field.

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