Bobcat Beat: Bates faces stiff test in Wesleyan

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Fresh off its first win of the season, Bates football shifts its focus to arguably its toughest competition to date this season when the Bobcats host undefeated Wesleyan University on Saturday at 1 p.m. 

The Cardinals (3-0) have dominated the Bobcats historically, sporting a 28-4 record all time. Wesleyan defeated Bates 35-7 last year en route to winning a share of the NESCAC title during its 7-1 campaign. The Bobcats (1-2) haven’t beaten the Cardinals since 2005. 

“They have some really good players, but we have to match their intensity level,” Bates coach Mark Harriman said. “They’re a really physical football team, and to me that’s what they do very well. They have good skill as well. They bring a lot of intensity to the game, and we have to be able to match that.” 

Bates’ defense will have its hands full trying to contain Wesleyan’s prolific offense, which averages an NESCAC-best 31 points per game. Cardinals quarterback Jesse Warren has yet to toss an interception and leads the conference with six touchdowns. Wesleyan is just as formidable on the ground, where running back Kyle Gibson averages 91 yards per contest, good for third-best in the conference. 

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The Cardinals have a knack for starting off strong in both the first and second halves. They’ve outscored opponents 28-7 in the first quarter and 22-0 in the third. 

“We want to be able to make sure we get off on the right foot and put points on the board early,” Harriman said. “Force them into some situations where we can play the field position battle.” 

The Bobcats are coming off their most complete game of the season in their 19-12 victory over Williams in which the defense pitched a second-half shutout.

Wide receiver Mark Riley continues to have a breakout season for the Bobcats. Following his 7-catch, 143-yard performance Saturday, Riley now averages a league-best 116.3 yards per game and is second in the conference with 24 receptions. 

Saturday’s matchup will pit the top two interceptions leaders against one another. Bates’ Ryan Newson and Wesleyan’s Jake Bussani lead the NESCAC with four picks each. Newson is also third in the conference with 11 tackles per contest. 

The Cardinals have forced seven turnovers, while the Bobcats have forced six. Harriman said winning the turnover battle will be key. 

“That’s our goal every week,” Harriman said. “Especially in a game where you have two similar teams that are going to run the football and capitalize on some big plays in the pass game through play action. You want to limit the opportunities they have, especially in the short field situation.” 

Men’s soccer finding scoring touch 

Entering its non-conference match against Newbury Cellege on Oct. 1, Bates men’s soccer had scored five total goals in its first nine contests. 

The Bobcats scored nine against the Nighthawks that night in a 9-0 victory. Even more improbable, all nine goals came in the second half. 

Max Watson and David Dick scored twice and Jack Martell, Sean Moyo, Peabo Knoth, Lee Sandquist and Nate Merchant each added a goal as the Bobcats (3-7-1, 2-5 NESCAC) matched their second-highest scoring output in a match in program history. They tallied 11 goals against Thomas College in 2008. This was the sixth time Bates has recorded nine goals in a match.

Knoth led the Bobcats with three assists. Jason Stephansky and Aaron Nickelsberg each chipped in two assists, as did goalkeeper Sam Polito. 

Bates followed that performance with a 2-1 victory in overtime against Connecticut College. Knoth scored his team-leading fifth goal in the 96th minute to give the Bobcats their first two-game winning streak of the season. 

After starting the season 0-6-1 with two goals scored, Bates is 3-1 in its last four matches, putting 14 in the net. 

Rosen thriving during freshman campaign 

Julia Rosen is only a freshman, but that hasn’t stopped the forward from making an impact for the Bates women’s soccer team. 

Rosen’s started eight of the Bobcats’ 10 games this season and is second on the team in points with 10 (three goals, four assists). Only senior Dakota Donovan has more with 12 points (5 g, 2 a). Rosen is tied with Donovan in shots (23) and shots on goal (12). 

The Bobcats are 5-0 when Rosen records a point and 1-3 when she doesn’t. She scored her first collegiate goal in the season opener against Saint Joseph’s and notched her first assist against Southern Maine two matches later. 

Rosen is the only Bates first-year player to record a point this season. 

Women’s cross country 14th at Invite 

Bates women’s cross country continues to impress this season, its lastest showing being a 14th place finish at the 40-team Paul Short Collegiate Invitational in Bethlehem, Pa., on Saturday. 

The Bobcats finished with a team score of 488, led by sophomore Jessica Wilson. Wilson finished the 5-kilometer race in 23 minutes, 1 second, good for 77th overall. She crossed the finish line a second in front of teammate Elena Jay. 

Bates’ top five runners finished within 25 seconds of each other. Seniors Erica Gagnon (23:19) and Sarah Fusco (23:20) and junior Addie Cullenberg (23:21) rounded out the Bobcats’ top five runners. 

The invitational featured schools from all three divisions. Bates finished seventh out of more than 20 Division III schools. 

mkraft@sunjournal.com 

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