UMaine-Farmington’s Haley Fletcher, a former Monmouth Academy standout, heads the ball as Thomas College player Nikki Bradstreet pressures during the NAC women’s soccer championship game Sunday in Waterville. (David Leaming/Morning Sentinel)
WATERVILLE — It did not take long for the Colby College men’s soccer players to stand and cheer. As soon as they heard their team’s name, and as it appeared on a screen set up in the trophy room, the Mules were on their feet and applauding.
Sunday, Colby defeated Williams on penalty kicks to win its first New England Small College Athletic Conference championship. Shortly after 1 p.m. Monday, the team gathered on campus to learn its opponent in the NCAA Division III tournament. Colby (8-6-3) will play at Montclair State (17-1-2) either Friday or Saturday at a time to be announced.
“As a team, we’ve been united. Our team culture is very strong,” senior back and co-captain Garrett Dickey said. “Everyone buys into the program. Everyone buys into what we’re trying to do.”
Across town, Thomas College (14-4-1) learned it will play at Connecticut College (12-2-2) in the first round. Winners of the North Atlantic Conference, the Terriers are making their fourth NCAA men’s soccer tournament appearance, and first since 2015. St. Joseph’s College (20-0) won the Great Northeast Athletic Conference crown and will play at Middlebury (10-3-3).
In the women’s soccer tournament, the University of Maine at Farmington (8-12) plays at Middlebury (15-1-2) after winning the NAC. GNAC champ St. Joseph’s (16-3) plays at Swarthmore (15-2-2) College in Pennsylvania. The University of New England (10-7-2) won the Commonwealth Coast Conference and will play at Williams (15-1-2).
Chris Parsons, the Thomas College men’s soccer coach, said he expected to take on a NESCAC opponent in the first round, although he expected it would not be crosstown rival Colby. Neither Colby nor Thomas submitted a bid to host the first round, Parsons said.
“I think it will be fun, no matter who we play,” Parsons said, an hour before the selection show. “We’re excited to play anybody.”
A few Thomas seniors were freshmen on the last Terrier team to make the NCAA tournament three years ago.
The UMF women earned their first conference championship in 15 years with a 3-1 victory over Thomas in the NAC title game Sunday. The conference title was a goal the Beavers set in the preseason, coach Molly Wilkie said.
“That gave us something to work for. They pushed every day,” Wilkie said.
The Colby men’s soccer team has been in tournament mode since the end of the regular season, when the Mules had to defeat Bates just to earn the eighth and final seed in the conference tournament. In the NESCAC tournament, the Mules knocked off top-seed Tufts in penalty kicks in the quarterfinals before up setting No. 4 Amherst and No. 6 Williams to win the conference and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“It’s really just a culmination of a season’s worth of preparation. For the seniors, four years worth of hard work. We had felt going into that Bates game that we hadn’t peaked yet as a team in terms of performance levels. That wasn’t me just trying to give the guys any false confidence. I really felt we had not peaked,” Colby coach Ewan Seabrook said. “It’s really just a collective effort of the entire group. You know, these guys care about each other so much. They’re a wonderful group of guys, and they just want to give everything possible to get another game, and try to stay on the training field as long as possible.”
The Colby College soccer team erupts in cheers as the Division III men’s soccer tournament bracket is announced Monday. The team learned it will play Montclair State College. (David Leaming/Morning Sentinel)